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By Eleanor Durrant on

Blog from the basement: Our new conservation lab

Conservator Eleanor takes us behind the scenes of the museum's new conservation lab.

In my first post for Blog from the Basement, I detailed the work the collections team had done to de-install all the objects from our Animation and TV Heaven galleries. While this work was going on, we were also decanting one of our large storerooms to prepare the space for a new conservation lab, and an adjacent logistics room to temporarily store incoming and outgoing objects.

A basement storeroom with metal shelving and strip lighting
The storeroom halfway through the decant with some packed objects on the shelf ready for transport.
A basement storeroom with metal shelving frames
Once all the objects were removed, the shelves were taken down ready for new flooring to be laid.

The decant of this store was an important part of the wider Sound and Vision project. The overhaul of two permanent galleries will see many large objects installed and the conservation lab we used before was just too small for all our conservators to work in at once, let alone fit in some of the objects! This new space is significantly larger and has allowed us more space to invest in more specialist equipment, such as a fume cupboard, to better look after our collection.

After around seven months of cataloguing, hazard checking, condition reporting, packing and a lot of heavy lifting, we had emptied the space of cameras, television sets and many more objects, leaving a very echoey empty space.

An empty basement storeroom
The logistics store after the removal of the racking.
An empty basement room with old brown flooring.
The conservation lab space before the renovation.

We then handed the space over to the builders who, among other improvement works, laid a new chemical-resistant floor, refreshed the paint on the walls and installed a sink and cabinets in the new lab.

An empty basement storeroom with new grey flooring
The storeroom space after the building works.

In order to be more sustainable, we furnished much of our new lab space with second-hand equipment and furniture from the Science Museum Group’s old lab in Blythe House, London.

A basement room with large workbench, chairs and shelving
The conservation lab after delivery of furniture from Blythe House.

The central tables are on wheels to allow us to use the space more flexibly, something that is especially important for our collection of larger objects, like film cameras and sound equipment.

However, it wasn’t one of these larger objects that was first to be conserved in the new space. I was delighted to be the first of our conservators to complete a treatment there, by re-adhering the lifting leatherette on this Midg camera, used by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths when they took pictures of the famous Cottingley Fairies.

Conservator Eleanor Durrant working on a large box camera at a workbench.
Ellie working on the Midg camera in the new lab.

Watch this space for a closer look at some of the objects we will conserve in our new lab.

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