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19th November 2020

Behind the scenes at Yorkshire’s Maritime City project by Media Maritime Volunteer, Julie Corbett

How many people remember going to the Museum of Fisheries and Shipping when it was at Pickering Park and looking up at the whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling?

The right whale skeleton in Hull's Maritime Museum

That museum moved to its current location, The Dock Office building in 1974. There are no records of how this whale skeleton or any of the other items were moved.

Original entrance to the whale and whaling exhibits from Queen's Dock Avenue

Part of the Yorkshire Maritime City project is documenting and gathering new stories about Hull’s seafaring past. More than 800 years of connections with, to and from the sea. This history now includes the cataloguing and moving of objects into storage, the valuing and conservation of some needing attention and the housing of temporary exhibitions. Here is a video of the Arctic Corsair being moved from her berth on the River Hull.

The Arctic Corsair moved for the first time in years

Conservation and modernisation of Hull’s maritime museum began in January 2020 when the doors were closed to the public and work started to install new steps and access ramp to the main entrance in Victoria Square.

I volunteered for the project in mid-October to help tell the story of ‘packing up the museum’ ready for the work on the building in 2021. In all the rooms and corridors, I discover things ready to be removed.

Item packaged and secured with tape

You could also see the careful preparations to make the museum a Covid-19 compliant working environment.

Extra capacity hand wash dispensers at the entrance to the museum

In the museum are items of all shapes and sizes. The items are also of all different materials. I wonder how much of this bubble wrap will be used.

Bubble wrap waiting to be used

Items, such as the trawl door from the Stella Leonis (Silver cod winner in 1963 and 1964) are still in situ and it feels odd to see them closeup without other visitors around.

Stella Leonis trawl door

There are unexpected delights to be found. I wonder why these items were not used. Why did no one want to dress up in them? We may never know this story.

Cardboard box with unused dressing up items inside

During this visit I watched Stathis Tsolis, Conservation and Engagement Officer return some paintings to a storage area. This is carefully choreographed ensuring both the integrity of frame and canvas. Some paintings need specialist conservation work.

Stathis returning an oil painting to storage racks

Finally, the visit would not be complete without mentioning the building a Grade II listed and was formerly dock offices built in 1868-71 for the Hull Dock Company. The architect, C. G. Wray, designed the offices and John Underwood of London was responsible for the principal sculptures and Thomas Frith of Hull carved the exterior capitals, friezes, and decorative panels. Here is a selection of parts that caught my eye during this visit on October 16th, 2020.

A collage including mosaic tiling and views to Victoria Square