Collections Care: Diary of some precise, dedicated, serial tissue puff makers

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What do we do in Collections Care? Our purpose is looking after the Museum collections. This is no small feat:  the collection amounts to over 3.5 million objects. To pack and move one of these objects can take a whole day at times, so imagine having to pack and move a whole gallery or a particular room in one of our storage centres!

In our responsibility for moving and handling objects, we must pack some of our most priceless collections, taking objects to and from the Photography and Conservation departments and moving them from site to site. In doing this we need to make sure the object is packed correctly for transportation, which is where particular techniques of packing come into play. Over the last six months, I’d estimate:

Tissue sausages* made = 4,567

Boxes and trays packed = 5,930

Wedges made = 6,003

Tissue puffs** made = 40,012

Tissue puffs consumed (!) = 2

* Tissue sausages – A piece of acid-free tissue folded like a concertina, with flat tissue wrapped around it, so the folded tissue doesn’t rub against the objects.

** Tissue puffs – A piece/couple of pieces of acid free tissues, rolled/scrunched around the edges into a circular cushion/puff/pillow object, then rolled so that the scrunched edges are not touching the object.

Part of our collection: a Korean drum.
Part of our collection: a Korean drum.

To give an example, one of our team packed this drum recently. This is an essential instrument in a Korean shaman ritual, leading the rhythm of these proceedings. As you can see it has many elements to it, including a drum beater wrapped in red nylon and orange string with delicate blue fastenings. It has to be packaged to meet its own individual needs – what materials has it been made with? Where is it going? How is it getting there? Will it stay in its packaging for a long time? What packing materials would be best suited to hold this object?

Box made for the Korean drum
Box made for the Korean drum.

The solution was to make it its own box from scratch. It has many elements to it that allows the object to be put away, stored, and taken out safely.

The drum packed away in its box
The drum packed away in its box.

This is just one of the many objects that we pack in one day. Thank goodness there are nine of us! Look out for more blog posts about objects we have packed…

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