Ships are very important in the history of Polar exploration and that’s why we have quite a lot of ship models in our collection. We display as many as we can in the museum and library, but some are kept in storage as there isn’t space to put them all on show. The models are extremely intricate and delicate, so we really need to keep them free of dust because cleaning them is pretty risky for the rigging! Unfortunately even the smallest ship models are too big for our storage cupboards and end up gathering dust.
Inspired by my allotment I’ve come up with a nifty solution to this problem – cloches! We have three models in storage which can be covered by a frame very similar to what I use for bringing on veg plants in spring. These are the ships:
They are (from left to right) the bomb ketch HMS Terror, lost in 1845 during Franklin’s voyage to the Arctic and discovered just last month on the seabed; the sloop Gjøa, (now at the Fram Museum in Oslo) which was the first to navigate the Northwest passage successfully, under the leadership of Roald Amundsen in 1903-6; and last but not least, Shackleton’s three-masted barquentine “Endurance”.
Each ship has its own stand, but the cloches need to be much bigger to cover the ship with enough clearance all round. So the stand is placed on a baseboard made from MDF, and restrained with little chocks glued in position to stop it sliding around:
Unfortunately the MDF is not archival, as it gives off acids which will speed up the degradation of the sails and rigging. So it needs to be sealed up with aluminium barrier film. This is the most time-consuming part of building the cloches, as the film has to be ironed on and it takes ages! Some bits (like the chocks) are too fiddly for the iron-on film, so I use archival aluminium tape to cover those. This is the Gjøa on the aluminium covered board:
The white bits are the aluminium tape. You can just see the holes in the corners – this is for the cloche framework which goes on next:
The framework is made from wooden dowels which also need to be sealed with aluminium tape to stop acids being given off. The glue I use to stick the bits together is archival too:
The last stage is sewing a textile cover with a flap opening for the cloche, from an archival fabric called Tyvek. I could have used polythene but decided not to as it is rather static and also heavy and unwieldy. The front of the cover is a flap to get the model in and out and the whole cover is attached to the baseboard with velcro to hold it in place:
The Tyvek is opaque so I have put a picture of the ship model on the outside of the cloche with it’s museum ID number.