After hearing about our new displays in the previous blogpost, we thought you might like to know a bit more about how we look after our collections.
We have a very varied range of collections from natural history to fine art, archaeology to costume and almost everything you can think of in between.
To make sure our objects can be enjoyed for as long as possible we have to keep a check on the environment we keep and display them in.
We were delighted to obtain a grant recently from Museum Development Yorkshire to purchase new WiFi digital monitoring equipment to help us do this exact task.
With these digital monitors we will be able to track the temperature of the air in the cases and in our stores so we know the temperature of the environment that the objects are in.
We can also measure the amount of moisture that the air can hold at that temperature. This is called relative humidity (RH).
The two measurements are linked, as warmer air can ‘hold’ more moisture than cooler air. We want both of these measurements to remain as stable as possible to prevent any damage to the objects.
We will be training our staff and volunteers in what changes to look out for using the new monitors.
How do we monitor the collections environment?
For mixed collections like ours we normally aim for around 18-20 ˚C and 50% RH. Some collection items need a lower RH level than this. We can use separate boxes, cupboards and display cases with absorbent silica gel to create ‘microclimates’ for these items, like Shakespeare’s First Folio, which has its own conditioned case.
If it gets too cold and damp, metal items like our lead mining tools would develop rust. Mould might grow on the leather items.
If it’s too warm and dry, wooden objects like the Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson furniture might shrink and crack.
High temperatures and damp air together can also encourage insect pests like carpet beetles, clothes moths and silverfish to breed. They can cause damage to lots of different types of objects, like silk and wool items and even the glues in things like books and furniture. We definitely want to avoid these pests.
So you can see why it’s important to get the display and store environments just right!
What does this enable us to do better?
Our new monitors will mean we can track our cases and storage areas in real time. Alarms and graphs will let us know if there’s a rise or fall in temperature and relative humidity outside the boundaries we set.
Having a good idea of the environmental conditions in the cases will also help us share fragile and special objects like the 2,000 year old Flasby Sword which has an iron blade inside a copper alloy scabbard. It is a very difficult object to get the environmental conditions right for as it needs a low RH to prevent the iron blade rusting further.
If we find out there’s an environmental problem in the cases or in the stores through our monitoring, we can often use simple solutions such as adjusting the heating or using moisture absorbing products like silica gel. That’s why it’s good to find out about an issue early on before it causes damage to an object.
Monitoring the environment might not be something you ever think about when you visit a museum, but behind the scenes work like this is vital to help our objects survive to be enjoyed into the future.
Step 1: If you have ready-made clay, you can skip to step 3. Measure out one cup of flour and half a cup of salt. Slowly add warm water and mix together to make a firm dough.
Step 2: Knead the dough out on a lightly floured surface until smooth
Step 3: Separate your dough into 4 balls, add the food colouring and mix well.
Step 4: Divide each ball into 6 smaller balls.
Step 5: Arrange 5 small balls around one central ball to look like a flower. Press them together to stick them to each other.
Step 6: Insert the stick on the lower side of the flower to make a hole and remove it.
Step 7: If you are using shop-bought clay, follow the instructions on the packaging. For the salt-dough, place your flowers into the oven- ask an adult for help with this! Set to very low heat (120 C) for approximately 2 hours or until hard (keep a close eye on them over this time).
Step 8: Decorate them with paint if you don’t have food colouring. Insert the stick back in the hole and glue it if you like.
Step 9: Now you have a lovely bouquet of Spring flowers!!
Fun Fact: The most popular flower for Easter is the Lilly and it symbolizes virtue, hope and innocence.
This week’s blog has been written by our new University Placement Student Daniela. Read on to find out more about her placement……
I have been taking part of my Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology degree placement year with Craven Museum since February.
As the museum is still closed, I have been working mostly remotely, but this does not mean there is not much to do! On the contrary, I have been involved in a series of different tasks from different projects.
I have been taking part in data checking on accession cards and working with the accession register. This involved checking a list of provided data against the records on the accession register, and as the materials are in storage, it has mainly consisted of reading the data and checking they have the correct numbers and descriptions in the museum database. It has been a long task, but very interesting, given that some objects in the database have pictures and, even though I could not see them live, I could look at them through the register pictures.
I have also worked on typing the different stories from the people that helped to create the bunting for the new Celebration exhibition. Some of them really caught my attention: One of the bunting flags was made by 3 generations of women (grandmother, mother and grandchild), another told the story of a lady remembering her childhood in town, and another told how this little project made them forget about the current situation for a couple of days. They were all celebrating and appreciating the museum, their town and their history. I cannot wait to see the exhibition when the museum opens!!
Besides all these, my main project at the moment is creating an inventory and organising a series of new lithic materials donated by the Kingsdale Head excavation for future handling sessions.
This job consists of analysing every individual piece, making an inventory with numbers and descriptions of them and taking pictures. Considering that these items are going to be used for handling sessions with children and adults, I am working on potentially creating workshops on how they were produced and how they evolved and changed through time (more on this in a later post!!).
Working with the museum’s team has provided me with an insight of what their job involves on a daily basis, and the different skills one can develop in such a rich environment. I have also gained experience on the rich heritage and culture of the region.
We have a behind the scenes blogpost for you this week with a glimpse into the new stores and displays at Craven Museum!
When the museum team moved the collection out for the refurbishment of Craven Museum at Skipton Town Hall in December 2018 we had to pack up the museum’s entire collection of around 60,000 objects. You can read about how we did it on the blog here.
We are now at the exciting stage of bringing all the objects back to make our new displays and put into our new stores.
We are having our objects mounted for display by specialist mount makers, Rutherford and Wheeler.
Some large items need scaffolding to get them into position!
We are really enjoying seeing the display cases come to life with favourite objects from the old museum as well as new objects that we are collecting from the wider community in Craven.
In the stores we have new moveable shelving which means everything now has a place and we can fit more in!
And when we re-open later this year we hope to run bookable store tours so you too can see behind the scenes!