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At the Hull Maritime Museum, a small team of colleagues are working hard to study, record, digitise, and, if needed, conserve more than 50,000 historic items from the museum’s collection - ahead of a £12m refurbishment to the former Town Dock Offices.

We go behind-the-scenes with the team making this happen.

As conservator for the project, Stathis Tsolis is working alongside other members of the team to prepare thousands of objects for their move to storage.

At this stage, our priority it to make objects safe for the move so any conservation treatments focus mainly on stabilisation or addressing structural issues. Some people say our work is often hidden, although just as important if not more so.

All our objects have a unique accession number and any information related to them is stored in a Collection Management Software. This software allows us to create object lists and help us locate them in the galleries or in store, assess their condition and whether they need any treatment before they are carefully packed and safely transported. The will documentation officer work closely with object packing technicians making sure there is a trail for every object that leaves the museum and it is safely stored until the museum re-opens.

Stathis records the accession number to the management system
Each object is prepared and recorded ahead of the move

For example, this Silver Freedom Casket that was awarded to Captain Piercy of H.M.S “Countess” (c. 1779), has an accession number KINCM:2007.1080 (from more details about this object and our entire collection, you can check on this link:

The object is in good condition with only a need of a gentle polish. This was carried out using a non-chemical polishing paste.

Silver Freedom Casket that was awarded to Captain Piercy of H.M.S “Countess” (c. 1779)
Stathis gives the casket a gentle polish

We have adopted an approach, with minimal intervention, carrying out sufficient treatment so the objects are stable for the move to their temporary storage location.

Once we are happy with the condition of the casket and take a photograph of its current condition, it can then be passed on to the packing team. The object will be placed in a suitable box and padded sufficiently with acid-free tissue paper. Each box has a unique identifier, same as the palette or tray it is loaded on.

Our team will be logging the location of the objects up to the point they are loaded on the transport vehicle. Once the objects arrive in their temporary storage location, they will be allocated to designated bays. The unique identifiers will help allocate the objects within the storage facility but also help to retrieve them for their return back to the museum.

Some objects are very fragile and they will need bespoke mounts, crates or materials to ensure they are protected safely for the move.

Our ship model collection contains some fine-detailed specimens with elaborate rigging and constructed of very fragile material (for example, KINCM:2005.2225, Model of a British Napoleonic Warship.

Model of a British Warship

Our packing contractors (Constantine Ltd) has extensive experience on similar collections having work for the Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Science Museum in London where they have developed bespoke packaging solutions for maritime models.

Constantine are expected to begin work to pack the museum’s collection in the coming weeks.