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The Historic Dockyard Chatham: Inventory and Storage

Museum Name

The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Museum Contact

Helen Crowe

Title of Project

Inventory and Storage Project


September 2013 onwards

Project Outline

The staff at The Historic Dockyard Chatham are currently undertaking a storage project to assess the condition and inventory status of collection items excavated from the wreck of HMS Invincible (1758) during the 1980s. This work involves locating the items, checking the condition, recording the inventory number and associated information, and then repacking them and moving them to their new storage location.

Types of Collections Involved

During the course of this project some interesting and quite large items were found, including two very large pieces of leather, which looked to be an entire hide and were possibly used to keep gun powder dry. These large pieces were stored lying flat on top of other objects on open shelving and had to be moved in order to be photographed and checked, before they were moved to a new storage location. The leather was very fragile, stiff and heavy so needed to be moved carefully using the pieces of bubble wrap and polythene on which they were lying. This meant they had to be moved by two people.

Project Steps

Leather hide before cleaning

There were several steps to documenting and storing them safely: 

Step 1

The hides were identified on the inventory list, ensuring they were labeled correctly. Any additional information was gathered such as measurements and additional numbers. The leather was then photographed for the inventory record. 

Cleaning of the leather hide

Step 2

The leather was cleaned of dust and debris and excess salts with a stiff hogs hair brush into a museum vac. Great care was taken not to loose or disrupt any of the fragile or broken areas of leather. Muslin was put over the end of the vacuum to stop any small pieces of leather being sucked up.

Cut piece of Antinox

Step 3

The next stage was to pack the leather for storage. Due to the size and weight it was important to ensure the leather was fully supported and easy to move. A large sheet of thin corrugated polypropylene / polyethylene board (such as Antinox or Correx) was cut to a size that was about 10cm larger than the object on all sides, ensuring a good margin around the edge. This was then covered in acid free tissue and taped on the back to keep it in place. 

Antinox covered in acid free tissue

Leather on Antinox sheet

Step 4

The board was slid underneath the leather to support it fully as it was moved to its position on the shelf. The top of the leather was then covered with tyvek which will protect it from dust but also allow it to be breath. The edges of the Tyvek were lightly tucked underneath the board to secure it and stop it lifting when people walked past. A notice was put on the top of the Tyvek to ensure nothing was placed on top. 

Leather covered in tyvek on storage shelf

Materials required

Materials required:

Antinox or correx
Acid free tissue paper
Low tack / conservation tape
Hogs hairs brush
Museum vac or vacuum which has adjustable suction

All of these items can be purchased from a conservation supplier such as Preservation Equipment LTD, Conservation by Design and Conservation Resources. If you are located in Surrey, Sussex or Kent make sure you look at the Conservation Resources Bank as some of these items may be free for you to have or borrow. Contact our Preventative Conservation Officer, Emily for more details.