By Lottie Clark, Decant Curator

We recently hit the first of many milestones during our Museum decant – we packed our 100th box from the Ceramic collection!

Usually the packing volunteers are working in our Decorative Art Store, deep in the basement of the Museum. So when it came to our 100th box they had a bit of a treat as we were decanting the collections from one of our balcony cases in the Atrium Gallery.

A display case with ceramic objects

The balcony case as it was, before we started packing

While most of our display cases will be emptied of their collections after the Museum closes on 3rd September, this case will soon be home to a rather exciting installation from artist Holly Davey.

So in order to get it emptied we set up our packing tables on the balcony and got to work. Our loyal volunteers Celia Bean and Jane Howlett assisted Curator of Decorative Art, Alison Cooper, in carefully removing the objects from their case ready to pack. We were sure to note down every object’s accession number and its movement slip. These are used to document the objects on our digital system so we constantly know their whereabouts.

The box was then carefully prepared with plenty of acid-free tissue, to pad the objects and create a protective barrier, and then each item was ensconced in tissue puffs to keep it safe from movement and damage. It’s vital that objects are never covered so they are never wrapped up in tissue paper but individually ‘padded’ around instead. The balcony case contained a wonderful selection of the Museum’s rarest tin-glazed earthenware pieces. Earthenware is not fired at the higher temperatures of other ceramics, like porcelain, and is therefore coarser and more porous than these other forms. Having a ‘crumblier’ texture it is more prone to damage so needs to be treated more delicately, especially when it comes to packing.

Three jars in a box with tissue paper

We also packed these Apothecary jars

Arguably, these objects needed greater special attention as the three 17th Century salt cellars contained within the box included one of our most prized ceramic pieces – an Armorial Salt emblazoned with the combined Coat of Arms of Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria. This not only dates the cellar between 1625 and 1669 but its royal provenance makes the cellar one of only three in existence worldwide! It went on display in 2013 and the Plymouth Herald ran an accompanying article.

With this special piece packed carefully in our milestone box, I secured the lid and applied the accompanying label.

While this box begins its journey to our offsite store the balcony case now stands emptied of objects, labels and mounts awaiting its intriguing installation…

An empty display case

The empty balcony case