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Following Best Practice: an audit of the Museum Collection

Volunteers Helen and Victoria have undertaken an audit of the museum collection stored at the Shakespeare Centre. In this blog they reflect on their project and let us in on some ‘behind the scenes’ best practice museum procedures.

Emily Millward

January is the month when we take stock of what we received for Christmas and realise, unfortunately, that we now have some unwanted gifts: a terrible tie, or yet another pair of random socks. Helen and I are constantly looking out for the ‘unwanted’ in our repacking project in order to follow best practice museum standards.

Objects need to be securely packed, not wrapped in plastic bags or left loose in a box. We have replaced damaged boxes with new sturdy ones, and have made ‘nests’ with acid free tissue to sit the object in - acid free rather than ordinary tissue, because it does not give off chemicals, which can transfer to the items it is meant to be protecting, potentially causing them harm.

Storing museum items ‘nested’ in acid free tissue paper.
Storing museum items ‘nested’ in acid free tissue paper.

When checking any pieces of wood in the Museum Collection (many of which are claimed to be part of Shakespeare’s Mulberry Tree), we were keen to ensure that there was no evidence of fresh woodworm. This is generally quite easy to spot as the item will have tiny ‘exit’ holes and when the item is gently tapped, frass will fall out: this is the faeces of the tiny beetles that have chewed their way through the wood.

We are coming to the end of our project and are currently repacking textiles; this includes checking for any sign of moth damage to cloths. Helen and I are opening out large bedspreads and blankets, as well as looking closely at more delicate items containing silk to check for any sign of freshly munched holes. Due to the controlled conditions in the museum storeroom we have (thankfully!) only come across old damage, which is excellent news for the future of the collection and demonstrates how following best practice can prevent further damage to collections items.

Helen and Victoria
Helen & Victoria check their inventory of cauldrons in the museum storeroom.

Keep checking back on the ‘Behind the Scenes’ tag to see more projects with the museum collection in the future.

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