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October « 2009 « The Polar Museum: news blog

Conservation

All hands on deck

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Objects have been deposited in the Institute since its inception as a place for polar study and research. The museum of the Institute has always had a section of these objects on display but a large percentage has been in storage, much for some time.

However, as the Institute was not originally conceived as a museum there has never been what could be called a museum storage space. Objects have been squirreled away throughout the building, with most of them being stored in a room called B5. Of course, over time B5 has become too small to hold the entire collection and is one of the main reasons why our brand new store was built.

However, the objects will not move themselves, so I rely on other staff members of the Institute and my trusty volunteer Ronald to help me relocate objects from various locations in the museum to their new home.

Jeanette and Willow going camping Mark and Ronald moving trunks
Jeanette and Willow going camping Mark and Ronald moving trunks

Conservation begins

Monday, October 12th, 2009

My main role here at SPRI is to conserve the objects going into the new museum. However before that could start I had a few other tasks to complete first, namely setting up a dedicated conservation workspace.

In the past, conservation at SPRI has been mainly carried out in situ on an ad hoc basis. Therefore, as the first SPRI conservator it was my duty to squirrel out a space I could call home for the next eight months. After looking behind many doors I found the Textile Store. Luckily for me, there is a brand new store waiting for these textiles, so I moved them out and moved my workbench and equipment in.

Former Textile Store Room Conservation workspace
Former Textile Store Room New conservation workspace

The inaugural object to be conserved in the workshop is a wet bulb thermometer for a loan going to Athy in Ireland. It is one of a group of objects which will form part an exhibition in conjunction with the Annual Ernest Shackleton Autumn School. The thermometer was used during the Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909).

Conservation workspace

As you can see, amongst the more sophisticated pieces of equipment there is always room for an empty jam jar.

Conservation workspace

The thermometer is in good condition, considering its age and the extreme environment to which it was subjected. The metal fittings have a blue green coloured patina, or corrosion layer, commonly known as verdigris. This usually occurs when a copper-based metal, such as brass, is exposed to air and seawater. This type of corrosion fits in with what we might expect from objects exposed to the marine environment at Cape Royds, and it is also possible to see salts on the surface of the wood, too. In the picture above I am removing the loose corrosion with a glass fibre brush. I don't want to remove all of the patina as it protects the metal underneath from further corrosion. Also, I am not restoring the thermometer to make it look like new, so I don't want to make the fittings bright and shiny. When the thermometer comes back from Ireland it will be going into the new museum display.

HLF