Although the parts of the collection that are not currently on display are kept in stores off site of the actual museums and heritage sites, where the curatorial staff are based, the objects on display often need to be moved or tended to for various reasons. The following is three times I left the stores last week and visited different sites:
Staircase house is a restored townhouse that dates back to the 15th century. Its rooms are set out in such a way, using collections items, to simulate how the house would have looked when it was lived in. As you travel through the house, you travel through time visiting different times and periods, from 1460 to WW2, as you explore the rooms that circle the Jacobean cage newell staircase – one of only three surviving examples in Britain.
One of the rooms here is the 18th century dining room. This room is set out with a large table covered with fine food and beautiful silver cutlery. This cutlery is what Angela and I came to see; we simply came to clean it.
Even though this collection is behind a rope and can not be touched by the public, dust of course will start to settle, especially in such an old house, and could potentially become hazardous to the quality of the objects. Therefore this half an hour of basic cleaning is essential. We took some Goddard’s Long Term Silver Polish and wiped it on to the cutlery and the candle sticks, then used a curatorial quality ‘rag’ to polish it clean. This really brought the shine to the objects, not only cleaning them and preserving their quality but also making them better display objects.
2. Bramall Hall.
Of course, the holiday season is upon us and many of our sites are getting ready to host events and to mount decorations in celebration, our Tudor manor house, Bramall Hall, is no exception. Here they use the kitchen to host ‘A Tudor Christmas’ for visiting school groups with the facilitators in full costume. However, this means that the collection items on display here had to be removed and stored elsewhere for the season.
The curatorial staff handles objects every day and so know how to move them safety and securely, so even though the objects from the kitchen would not be leaving Bramall Hall they could only be moved by them. In fact, the objects didn’t move very far at all; from the kitchen to the cold room, a room previously used when Bramall Hall was a residence to store meats and food, the room just off the kitchen. This room was closed to the public for this time so it was perfect.
The objects were securely wrapped in acid free tissue paper and then packed in boxes. These objects will stay in storage now until after Christmas whilst the hall is decorated in a festive fashion.
3. Hat Works.
The UK’s only museum dedicated to the hatting industry, hats and headwear, Hat Works is home to a recreated hat factory with some 20 fully restored working Victorian-style machines and a fantastic collection of over 400 hats from around the world, all inside an ex-factory building. On the lower floor that holds the recreated factory there is also a hatters cottage and office. Of course, you can not make a hat without a hat block, so it stands to reason you can not have a hat museum without hat blocks, and we don’t!
There are hundreds of hat blocks in our collection and a large number of them are on display in the mock factory setting, by the office. A few weeks ago 360 of these hat blocks came back to the curatorial services where everyone chipped in to help photograph, assign a number to, label, wrap and box up each individual hat block. This was done over the course of two days as the use of these blocks had been requested at the end of the week for filming in London. And off they went, supervised by Katie C and Emma and returned the following week.
And so, last Thursday they had to be returned to Hat Works. The boxes were unwrapped and the hat blocks put back on the shelves on the mock factory floor. As they went back a note of each individual hat blocks number was taken. This is so that back at the office their Modes records can be changed. When they left for London the current location on their records was changed from Hat Works to London (obviously in more detail) so that their absence was accounted for, and so now that they have returned it needs to be changed back and to make sure that none got lost on their way back home.