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Friday 4 June 2021

Julie Corbett, a Media Maritime Volunteer for the project visited the Hull Maritime Museum during the museum decant.

It is the last Thursday in May.

The sun is shining, and the sky is quite blue. I have been invited along with another volunteer (Ben) to see the progress the specialist removal team has been making at the museum. I have arrived early enough to take a photograph of the museum from Victoria Square. From any angle it is a splendid looking building.

Hull Maritime Museum

Once inside the hoardings you can notice how dusty the outside of the building is becoming. Here is Ben and I with Tom Goulder (manager for the maritime project volunteers) before we put on our masks and enter the building.

Tom, Ben and I reflected in the glass panel of the side door

For me, the building is nearly a collection of absences. Ghost signs are all over the museum, empty display cabinets, patches on walls where paintings have been removed and empty hooks.

Light damage to hessian display boards at the Hull Maritime Museum

I wonder what the renowned decluttering expert Maria Konda would make of the situation. How difficult a task is curating a collection of things to show people’s livelihoods and memories?

Tom and asked if we could find quirky angles, something that helped tell the story of the removal of the collection before the refurbishment began. I found this quite difficult as I kept being distracted by the actual items still on display. I smiled seeing this notebook, wondering where I would begin in making a ‘removal’ to do list.

Notebook and pen on display case

Some of the Inuit artefacts where being prepared for packing. Seeing them outside the display cabinets, they took on a different quality, they became more real, more like the everyday objects they will have been before they came to the museum.

Various Inuit tools

Almost everything moveable and anything considered a hazard was labelled. The history of past refurbishment in the museum was also evident, including a wall socket for a plug with round-headed pins out of its concealment behind a display cabinet.

It feels a very considered environment, it feels that many eyes are still curious about what is in the building. I thought it might have an air of abandonment, an air of being unloved, but it does not.

I was privileged to see the large scrimshaw display cabinet open and able to look closely at the art. The lustre of the individual pieces is amazing. To see the polish on the teeth, bone, and baleen gave me a vision the whaler’s hands working for hours on the engravings.

Such delicate work, often produced in brutal conditions and in an industry centred on the death of so many marine mammals. A questionable place to find beauty, but the scrimshaw is beautiful.

Display cabinet of Scrimshaw and narwhal tusks

This building has so many stories within it and so many people have memories associated with both it and the artefacts in it that this short piece of writing can capture only fleeting glances.