Hi, it’s Esme again for one last belated post,
During my time at Colchester + Ipswich Museums I worked on a major collections project, which involved moving objects. As we spent time working with them, we were able to wonder at the wonderful and complex collections in front of us. There were many hidden gems, so I thought I’d share a few of the interesting finds I encountered… and those that I remembered to photograph.
I very carefully helped to refresh some of the packaging, using materials such as acid free tissue. By using this, we can protect objects while they are in storage. For example, if an object is heavy, we would support the whole surface in order to relieve areas of stress. This would prevent any further damage happening and preserve our incredible collections for others in the future.
Re-labeling was also an important job. This label for a North Sea Oyster shell from Brightlingsea was in a fragile state due to age and will require paper conservation. For new labels we used specialist pens that have an inert ink, which wouldn’t damage or react with the objects.
I worked on a draw of lead samples, which was incredibly heavy! Lead is very toxic so I had to wear nitrile gloves and make sure not to scratch my itchy nose (or accidentally lick any of the specimens!). Some of the samples I encountered were quite plain, but others were more detailed with crystals scattered over surfaces…
The sample on the left was giant and made up of barite crystals covering lead galena (a lead based ore). It may not be a native mineral to Colchester, but it is relevant to our collections, as ancient people such as the Romans would have smelted this rock to obtain lead; an important metal that was used to make water pipes!
From a first glance it was difficult to imagine where and how such objects would have been found. These kind of details are recorded by museums on a collections database. Each object is assigned a number and the location is logged. It’s then possible to recall more detailed information. Often, people undertaking research may need to study a specific part of a collection. In the meantime, the museum staff will be looking after it.
Large and delicate coral structures (about as big as a dinner plate to give you some idea) are also part of the natural science collections at Colchester Museums and proved challenging to repack. Each object was individually assessed and extra care taken when handling. The corals got repacked into suitably sized boxes, where their surfaces are protected by inert packaging and their weight better supported.
If you would like to join see more top finds from the collections at Colchester, then head over to @ColMuseums and @EssexFlo. They regularly share objects from the stores, so keep checking in to see what the team uncover!