Behind the Scenes: Packing our Collection
One of our big goals for 2022 was to fully pack up our collection, ready to move to new premises when the time came. Thanks to the hard work of staff and our amazing volunteers, in December we completed the huge undertaking of packing our 9000+ objects.
As a museum, we work to preserve the peace history that is represented by the objects in our collection so that it can be shared with future generations, but usually this work is all behind the scenes! Moving the museum has provided us with some new challenges in terms of protecting our collections, so in this month’s blog post we wanted to share some of the materials and methods we’ve used during the packing process. Our curator, Charlotte Houlahan, gave us some insight into what we’ve been doing to keep our objects safe.
Packing the collection up was such a daunting task – how did you decide where to begin?
Planning the packing and moving of an entire collection was such a big job and we have such a small team at the museum. We started by working with Drakon Heritage who helped us with the planning for the project. They helped us to plan out logistically how to pack the collection with the little space we have, and they also provided suggestions on how each type of object could be packed and stored.
How long did it take to pack the entire collection?
We officially started packing the collection in April 2022, and we wrapped the last objects at the end of December 2022. This involved a lot of staff time and also 9 different volunteers who contributed a total of 353 hours to the project.
What are the risks of moving our collection compared to the normal risks of storing objects?
The biggest risk is objects getting damaged during the move. To get our collection out of our current building and into a new store everything must go down the 3 flights of stairs and into the moving van, travel in the van to the new store, then be unloaded and unpacked. So, all objects need to be securely wrapped to minimize the damage at each of these stages.
Losing track of objects is also a bigger risk during the move, for instance having them misplaced into another box or put away in a different location.
What are the materials we use and why?
We have used a mixture of short term and long-term packing materials. The long-term materials are things that we can leave on the objects after the move as they are chemically stable, whereas the short term materials will be fine while moving but could damage the object if left on permanently.
Long Term materials:
Acid Free Tissue paper: This was used not only as the base wrapping for most objects, but nests were also used to fill in gaps in boxes to stop objects moving around the box while in transit. This should stop objects hitting each other and been damaged.
Acid Free Boxes – different types. We were able to not only wrap all objects to move them but also organise the collection to store different types of objects together. For example, having all the smaller textiles in one box and archival materials together. This will mean that in the new store objects of the same type will be kept together and we will be able to focus on the different environmental needs of different types of objects.
Polyester Archival quality clear pockets were used on archival materials. This is better than traditional plastic as it won’t age, crack or turn yellow over time. They are clear so you can look at the material without physical handling it.
Bubble wrap –We have used lots of bubble wrap to act as another level of temporary support and protection, but this will be removed when unpacking as the plastic will degrade over time. When using bubble wrap, we made sure to have the bubbles facing outwards as if pressed inwards they can leave marks or impressions on some surface types.
Foam – We use foam as an entry layer of protection for some items, as it stops objects with sharp edges breaking through the tissue paper. A good example of this is Joseph Rotblatt’s typewriter – we covered the sharp corners with foam both to protect them during the moving process, and to stop them from breaking through the tissue and making direct contact with the bubble wrap.
What’s the unpacking process going to look like?
It’s going to be a huge job- but it will be really fun to get to unwrap all these amazing objects and have them stored on new racking. We will need to focus on objects which have the short-term packing materials on first. The end product will be much bigger, safer and more organised stores. This will not only allow for better collections care, but will also improve access to the collection as objects will be easy to find, display and use.
How do we make sure we don’t lose anything?
Documentation of the objects is key- so making sure each object has a unique number code, which is written on the wrapping and then on the boxes themselves.
While moving them we will have staff checking boxes and objects off at each significant point. That way, we’ll know where every object is at every point of the move!
Finally, the most important thing is to update our collections management system – Modes. This is the system we used to record as much information as possible about our collection, including the location of every object, and this has to be updated to ensure we know exactly where each individual object is located.
We hope you enjoyed getting a little peak behind the scenes, and learning some more about our collections move. To get see the most up-to-date news about our new premises project follow us on social media or visit IMAGINE: Creating a Peace Museum for the Future | The Peace Museum