By Steve Conway, Decant Officer

Things are beginning to come together at last. In January, after many months of discussions and diplomacy, we signed the lease on our temporary offsite store. This means that the packing and movement plans I’ve been working on since I started in October can now be put into action. This is going to be a very busy year and our volunteer teams have made a great start packing the ceramics collection under the watchful eye of Lottie Clark, our Decant Curator.


Ceramics packing session for volunteers, January 2016

A lot has happened in the last few weeks. When objects move to the temporary offsite store they will be entered onto the museum database, so we had to give the new location a name. We had loads of suggestions from the Collections Team and chose to stick with tradition. The Main Art Store here at the museum is abbreviated to MAS on the database, so the new store will be called ‘MASS’, (Museum and Art Storage Site). I wonder how many data entry hours it will take to update the new location with an extra ‘S’!


Inside the new store, ‘MASS’

Environmental stability and security at MASS were improved this month as we’ve had a new wall built which will make the storage environment easier to control. This is especially important for objects made from organic materials like wood, bone or natural fibres as they could be damaged if the relative humidity (RH) at MASS is different to that at MAS. Wood and bone will shrink and split in very low RH and mould can grow on surfaces at high RH. The objects will be in storage for about 3 years until they return to their permanent home at the new History Centre, so we need to get it right!

Finally, we’ve had contractors on site to reconfigure the shelves and racking at MASS to make space for the large paintings, heavy objects, display cases and furniture that will be stored there. Now we need to get the IT up and running so staff and volunteers can document the collections when they start arriving. I can’t wait!