Decant Day, 28 September 2016: Up Close with the Collections

by Steve Conway, Decant Officer

Well it’s really happening.  The Museum has closed and the final push is on to clear our amazing collections out of the building ready for the contractors to start work in January.

If you visited the Museum before we closed you would have seen us carefully packing collections from the stores with the help of our volunteers. Now we’re concentrating on the galleries.

A full case in the natural history gallery.
A full case in the natural history gallery.

For me, the best thing about packing a Museum is unlocking the display cases, opening the reflective glass doors, and getting up close to the collections.  For the past few weeks we’ve been doing just that in the ‘Explore Nature’ natural history gallery and it’s great to say ‘hello’ to some of our old friends again!

Once the exhibits are taken off display they are checked for signs of deterioration. Information updates are added to our database so we can plan any treatment programmes that need to be carried out while the Museum is closed.  Many of the objects from the natural history collection will be frozen as a precaution against pest infestation before they go into storage. Feathers and fur can be particularly tasty for moths and other pests!

Natural history objects out of their cases and ready to be packed.
Natural history objects out of their cases and ready to be packed. These creatures have been sharing a display case for several years, but are impressive specimens in their own right.

With a closed building we are using all the public areas to pack and hold collections ready to transport them to our offsite store.  As a result, the Museum foyer has been transformed into a sort of ‘departure lounge’ for the world cultures displays collection, which is being carefully documented and packed to the highest standard.

The Museum foyer is now acting as a 'departure lounge' for our packed collections.
The Museum foyer is now acting as a ‘departure lounge’ for our packed world cultures collections.

Our decant is a mammoth task that requires specialist input from all staff including our team of Museum Assistants. These are the people you usually see on our Welcome Desk, in our galleries and who help to install exhibitions and ensure the security of our buildings. They are now putting their years of knowledge about the collections into practice by assisting with every aspect of the move.

Although we have contracted specialist art transport firms Momart and Harrow Green for some of our collections, the bulk of the work is being done in-house. In a previous blog you’ve seen how members of staff and volunteers have been trained to handle, pack and move our diverse collections. All that training is now being put into practice as our December deadline approaches!

Paintings in the lift
One of our Museum Assistants helping to pack and load paintings from our art collection ready to go to our secure offsite store.

At the Museum, there’s a sign in the lift that says: ‘What goes up must come down!’ I’m thinking of changing it to: ‘What goes out must come back’, because this is only the start of the journey…..


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