by Hannah Allum, Move Project Manager
Museums are space-hungry places. There’s rarely enough room to properly house the collections we currently hold, never mind finding space for new material. Roughly 90% of museum collections are not on public display, so many museums use storage beyond their main building, in offsite stores.
The Museum of Natural History has faced the same challenges and, for the past few decades, has found a solution in a somewhat surprising building. Where might you least expect to find a vast collection of rocks and fossils dating back millions of years? How about a nineteenth century church, complete with beautiful stained glass windows?!
As atmospheric as it is, this deconsecrated church is no place for good quality museum storage. To do the collections justice they need a monitored and controlled environment, suitable containers and pest prevention measures. Plus, it’s always a bonus to be able to access specimens without playing a very nerve-wracking game of Jenga or Tetris!
So, once again we are faced with the most terrifying and exciting of museum tasks; a collections move project! In 2016 we successfully relocated approximately 17,000 specimens from some of our old offsite stores and showed you some behind the scenes secrets along the way with the hashtag #storiesfromthestores. This time we have a team of eager beavers (also known as project assistants) who can’t wait to share glimpses of the project as we go, so make sure to keep an eye on @morethanadodo on Twitter.
After a much needed clean of the church, we’re starting to prepare the material to be moved. Alongside the specimens, we’re already coming across some interesting historical packaging. It seems that the mass consumption of Oxo cubes was a pre-requisite for collectors of old, as many specimens are stored in these retro tins. A few other repurposed boxes include; Quaker oats, Sharp’s toffee, Fry’s chocolates, marmalade, mustard oil and even wine crates. Quite the picnic!
Once removed from the church, the project team will be working on processing these collections in a dedicated space, as well as giving them some TLC and new homes (boxes). This will take place at a specialist heritage storage site until the end of 2018. Keep your eyes peeled for more on the treasures from this trove.