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14th May 2021

The enormous task of moving the whole of the Hull Maritime Museum’s collection from the Grade II* listed building has got underway.

Some 50,000 objects – including the much loved the polar bear – are being packed and removed as part of a major decant as the museum prepares for a £12m refurbishment.

Tens of thousands of priceless artefacts will be placed into secure storage to enable the start of a major refurbishment to the city’s popular Hull Maritime Museum, part of the £30.2m Hull Maritime project – funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Hull City Council.

Working alongside the museum team, Constantine Ltd who specialises in moving priceless museums objects throughout the world have started to dismantle and pack the 50,000 maritime artefacts.

The collection ranging from fine ceramics, fragile ship models and irreplaceable artwork up to industry machinery, large examples of trawling equipment and objects including a harpoon cannon weighing around 1400kg, will all be assessed, packed and moved with expert care and precision.

Blubber Pot
The large and heavy Blubber pot is moved for the first time in years
Harpoon Cannon
Technicians and museum staff use specialist equipment to move the 1400kg harpoon cannon

They will be placed in long-term storage at a secret location until the museum’s transformation is complete and the collection is ready to be re-installed. The objects that will not go on display will be placed into the reserve collection and will return to a new storage centre at Dock Office Chambers, once work is complete.

Ambitious plans for the new exhibitions are now finalised and the objects for display have been identified. The new displays and the thousands of stories will be told, many for the very first time. Many of the popular favourites will also return with new and improved storytelling.

Councillor Daren Hale, Portfolio Holder for Economic Investment, Regeneration and Planning, Land and Property, said: “This is a major step in our exciting journey to make this amazing project a reality for the people of Hull.

“Emptying a museum completely of internationally significant collections is a massive undertaking at any time and all the more so in the case of the superb collections at the Hull Maritime Museum.

“It is a huge and complex job that makes a typical house move seem simple because of the significance of all of these collections. Many of the objects are very old and extremely fragile, this means they are at their most vulnerable when they are being moved.

“Object handling is a skill that has to be trained as often the fragile material can also be heavy and difficult to manoeuvre and of course even the oils from the hands of staff can damage the objects - the reason for the no touching rule in most museums - so often gloves and other equipment form a part of the plan. Given the amazing mixture of material many of objects will need a plan all of their own to ensure they move safely and securely.

“With the collection being so large it will take some time to complete and great care will be taken under the supervision of our team. Once all the objects have been moved offsite, then the preparations for the major building works will get underway.”

Mark Hunt, Head of Technical at Constantine Ltd, said: “Constantine Ltd are excited to have been selected to undertake this important project for the city and people of Hull. We look forward to the challenge of working with the fascinating and varied collections held within Hull Maritime Museum.

“This project carries special resonance as the company originated in the North-East in 1885, when cargo would be shipped via sail boats. Constantine Ltd’s business has since evolved, but our foundations remain rooted in the North East of England.”

The museum is expected to re-open in 2024, with 50 per cent more objects on display. With new exhibitions and untold stories for all visitors to discover, learn and reminisce.

The refurbishment of the Hull Maritime Museum is part of the Hull Maritime project, funded by Hull City Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Other elements involve the restoration of the Spurn Lightship and the Arctic Corsair and regenerating the North End Shipyard, a hidden gem along the River Hull.