Decant Day, 21 December 2016: Light at the end of the tunnel

by Fiona Booth, Digital Engagement Officer

Since my last update in early December so much work has been undertaken with the Museum decant. We can now finally say that all the collections that needed to be out the building and moved to our offsite store have gone! Huge congratulations are in order for all the staff and volunteers who have made this happen. We’ve talked about it a lot on this blog over the last few months, but the amount of work that everyone has had to do should not be underestimated.

I had another look around the galleries recently to see what progress had been made in the last few weeks. It was a chance to see all manner of things being packed or moved – from Scott of the Antarctic’s Skis, to Ancient Egyptian objects, to ship models.

By the time I looked around most of the objects from our Bringing the World to Plymouth gallery had been decanted. There were a few really interesting objects from our stores still being packed however. These included weapons which had been in storage and which were being prepared for transfer. These are fastened to racking (as you can see in the photograph below). They will stay on this racking for the duration of the project which reduces the need to handle them.

Weapons secured to racking

When I photographed in our Plymouth: Port and Place gallery in October, preparatory work was being undertaken by staff before the objects could be moved. Now, lots of empty crates and boxes awaited and many objects were already packed. Compare the two photographs here which were taken about a month apart.

On this particular day, one of our really large ship models was being packed into its crate. The model was manoeuvred into the crate by three of our staff, which was a challenge given its size! The crate even has a door so that it can be accessed. In the photo you can see Ian from our MA Team reaching through to secure the object. Later on in the day, I returned to the gallery and many more ship models had been packed away, placed in front of the large model as you can see below.

Through to the Uncovered gallery, Fiona Pitt (Curator of Archaeology) had already moved a significant amount of objects into storage. Only some of the heavier items were left (some you can see up high in the gallery). With a lot of objects out of this gallery, she was using the opportunity to check through and update some of the documentation.

Meanwhile, our Uncovered gallery was being used to decant the objects from the Ancient Egypt gallery. Jordan (pictured below) is currently studying Archaeology at Exeter University so he’s been getting some first-hand experience of packing objects. As you can imagine, these are very delicate and need some care to make sure that they are stored safely. Jordan was doing a thorough job and explained how he had to pack these items. First, he placed a layer of plastazote in the bottom of the box. After drawing round the objects on a second layer, he cut out the shapes and checked the accuracy to hold the objects securely in place. The larger the object, the more support is needed.

After placing the objects into the middle layer, Jordan put padding around them. He then put a final layer of plastazote on top. Once the lid was on the box, he would label it, put a fragile sticker on it and complete any required paperwork. After this the object would be ready to be moved.

Carrying this out for each object takes considerable effort and time and staff and volunteers have worked for months, repeating this process every day to decant both the galleries and the stores. It’s been a successful few months and I think it’s safe to say that staff are now looking forward to a well-earned Christmas break!

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