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The Polar Museum: news blog

Giving the goggles a new home

In our museum stores we have a large number of googles from many different expeditions. There have already been a few blog posts about our goggles (for example, here, here and here), but this time I’m going to write about their storage. At the moment the goggles are stored together in six drawers. There are 113 objects in the drawers in total, including the goggles themselves plus some original cases. This does not include the 11 additional goggles currently on display in the museum!


Until now, the goggles were just loosely laid in the drawers, with some squeezed into their original cases. The aim of rehousing the goggles was to give the objects the space they need, so they don’t harm each other. It should be possible to open the drawers without the goggles rolling around from the movement! We wanted to store the goggles out of their original cases, so that they are not too cramped. The objects need to be easily accessible and visible inside the drawer. Overall, the objects should be easily handled and transported in their surrounding box or board, and the object’s carrying tray should not have too many different measurements to make it easier to put them back when more than one is taken out.

With that in mind, I came up with four proposals. First was a box without a lid, made from a conservation-grade corrugated plastic board called Correx. I wanted to make a box in a single piece, so that there wouldn’t be much adhesive needed. To do this, I designed sides that could be folded over and slotted into the base:


However, I found that it was hard to pick up a single box when they are all packed closely within a drawer. And having four sides (especially when they are folded, and so double thickness) takes up a lot of space: each side is about 1 cm thick, so you lose 2cm of space in the drawer for each box. This is a lot of space to lose when there are so many boxes to fit into the drawers!

The second option was a flat board with cut-out edges to make it easier to pick up:


This had the advantage of taking up less space, but didn’t provide as much protection for the objects as a box with sides.

My third idea was to make a grid of interlocking walls – these could be slotted together like the dividers that you get in wine cases. The flat boards above could sit inside the spaces. By taking out or adding walls, you could create different-sized spaces:


This took up less space than the previous option, but made it harder to accommodate different-sized boards or to rearrange the boards within a drawer. I also found that it was hard to lift the boards out from their grids, even with finger-holes cut out of the edges.

And last but not least, I considered making a box with only two sides. These sides would create walls between the objects once the boards were placed together, but took up less space than a four-sided box. Having sides on the box (rather than a flat board) also meant that they could be lifted easily out of the drawers:


In each of these designs, the object itself lies on a layer of archival foam, with cut-out areas to support vulnerable parts like the eyepieces. Between the foam and the object, there is a separating layer of acid-free tissue.

In the end I decided to put the all goggles into two-sided boxes (option 4 above), and to put the very compact and stable cases onto a flat board (option 2 above). That way, even the quite unstable and moveable bits of the goggles got additional protection from the box, and the cases fit better on a board:


Where there were different materials already in conflict with each other (e.g. metal that has started to corrode and affect an attached textile strap), I tried to created a little barrier by wrapping one of the parts in acid-free tissue. This is not going to stop the materials from affecting each other, but it slows the process until treatment becomes possible:


I chose four different sizes of box (really small and really big, as well as two middle sizes), to make better use of the space. I developed a net (template) for the different sizes, so the box can be folded up and is only glued once. The acid-free tissue is clamped on to the foam and the foam is fixed to the board by toothpicks that are then cut down so they don’t stick out. I made the process quicker by cutting out all of my materials in advance:


Here’s one of the storage drawers looking a lot tidier:


I would like to thank the museum conservators and team for the opportunity to work on this project and write this blog, and for making me so welcome to their team. It’s been very interesting and fun so far!


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