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Moving Stores at Littlehampton Museum

Museum Name

Paintings supported with plastazote and covered in Tyvek

Image credit: Katheen Lawther

Littlehampton Museum 

Museum Contact

Kathleen Lawther

Equipment / materials used or borrowed

Plastazote and Tyvek 

Dates of work / project carried out using the equipment / materials

May – June 2016 / temporary move of paintings and other collections from stores due to building work. 

How did you use the equipment / material to improve your collections care?

Due to unplanned building work the museum team had to move collections to a temporary store in one of the on-site meeting rooms at short notice. By accessing advice from Emily Nisbet-Hawkins and using resources from the conservation bank we were able to make sure collections were as well cared for as possible during this time. We used plastazote to make blocks and supports so that our large framed paintings were less vulnerable while leaning against walls. We also used Tyvek to cover paintings and prevent light damage. The work also gave us the opportunity to make sure the use of storage space was optimised when we returned everything to the store and ensuring collections were easier to access and could be better cared for. 

What was the impact of having this equipment / material available to you?

Reorganised store

Image credit: Katheen Lawther

Without these additional resources being available to the museum at short notice we would not have been able to move and store the collections safely for this period, and could have put the objects at risk of damage. Emily’s advice was also extremely useful in helping us to make the best out of difficult situation. Having the right materials improved staff confidence and ensured the moves went smoothly. Since moving back into the permanent store we have been able to make use of the Tyvek to create dust covers for items which were previously exposed, and recut the plastazote to create extra padding on shelves, so we have been able to make ongoing use of the materials.  

What went well and what didn’t go well?

This was a difficult project as it was not planned – although it was unavoidable due to the urgent need for building work to be done – and it was very time-consuming to move all the objects with proper regard for their care, which had a knock-on effect to other work. It would have been useful to have a training session with the whole team on moving and storing objects, but due to the timeframe this was not possible. Instead the curator was able to take advice from Emily, plan the moves and pass information about best practise on to the team.

Despite these difficulties, the work has had an overall positive impact on the storage of the collections in the long term. Before moving the collections back we were able to thoroughly clean the empty store.  Everything is now much more accessible, and this work has also served as an audit to ensure every item is properly located. 

Top Tips

If you are facing a similar move or disruption to your stored collections, don’t panic. Take time to work out what the best solution is within the resources available to you. I was initially concerned that for the best care of the collections we might have to seek external storage for the few weeks when work was ongoing – I had to compromise and make the best of the facilities available on site. There are seldom perfect solutions for collections care in small museums, but remember any small improvements you can make have a positive impact. 

What are your plans for the future?

This project has shown how much stores can be improved by rethinking and rationalising the way objects are positioned within the space. Although we are not in a rush to empty all our stores and start again, this work has given the museum a great precedent for improving our storage in small and manageable ways.