Decant Day, 14 January 2017: An emotional milestone

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

We’ve had a short break from blogging while staff take a well deserved Christmas holiday and then have a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things – but we’d like to wish you all a belated Happy New Year!

We’re feeling a bit nostalgic at the moment and for a very good reason. Last year as the months ticked by we reached and passed a number of different milestones with the History Centre project. It’s only the middle of January and here with are with yet another one. For many of us it’s a significant and quite emotional one……….

From Monday 16 January 2017 this building, the Central Library, St Luke’s Church and the section of Tavistock Place that sits in between them will start to become a construction site. Changes will soon become more visible on the outside rather than just the inside. It will certainly be a while until we can come back into the building without having to wear hard hats!

When we do return it will be to assist with the fit out of our new galleries and exhibition spaces and to get organised for our launch. By that point, everything will have changed. This is it. Nothing here is ever going to be the same again.

Since staff came back to work this month there’s been a ‘final push’ to clear the building as much as possible. All our collection objects were safely moved before Christmas but we still had furniture, cases, resources and equipment to deal with.

We also had people. The handover of the building means that a number of staff, namely our front of house team, business support team and art department have lost their offices. This has necessitated a shuffle around and re-organisation of many of the offices and people in our Annexe building in order to ensure everyone has somewhere to work.

We’ve written a lot about the decant over the past few months and hopefully our posts have given you an insight into the huge amount of work that’s been undertaken. We started packing behind the scenes quite early in 2016, but as soon our closing party on 3 September was over, our foyer quickly became a ‘departure lounge’ for our collections……….


From contemporary commissions, to paintings and prints, to natural history specimens and much, much more, cases throughout the building were emptied of their contents which were then packed, wrapped, documented and moved to our offsite store……….

A photograph of a large case on the Museum balcony being emptiedA photograph showing the art gallery being packed up

Cases that were once full of objects and specimens quickly became empty……….


The decant has seen us deal with porcupines, aardvarks, works of art, Scott of the Antarctic’s skis, pickled marine creatures, Ancient Egyptian mummy coffins and everything in between……….


… now we move into another new phase. While construction work gets underway our ‘Museum On Tour’ programme is growing and evolving. Later this month we begin hosting exhibitions at the Council House in Plymouth’s city centre. We’re recruiting for some new staff who should all be in post by late spring. Briefs for a series of artistic commissions are being developed, and a number of new community projects are getting off the ground. We’ll be blogging about all of these in the coming months.

Our ultimate aim with the History Centre is to create a visitor experience that highlights and provides greater access to Plymouth’s collections, builds on the reputation we’ve established for exhibitions, commissions and events, and acts as the driving force for a step change in the city’s cultural and heritage offer.

As you might guess, this means we still have a massive amount of work to do! It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. When we do hand the building over it will be the end of an era – but as the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw once said: progress is impossible without change.


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