Collections Trust Storage Event & Somerset Archive Services Visit

6 June, 2015

I’m sat on a train on the way home from Leeds, having spent the majority if my day today sat in a room with curators and collections managers from the major museums and galleries in the Country. Set in Leeds Museum Discovery Centre (I believe the largest purpose built archive and collection store for a council in the country), we were there to hear about and discuss the topic of collection and archive storage.

The first thing that struck me - the amount of humour - good spirited people Curators and Collection Managers. Also a surprise were the amount of puns around storage sheds….none of which I can remember but I do remember chuckling.

And so into detail - discussions from the Historic Royal Palaces, National Museums Scotland, and then the British Museum (BM) on the organisation and management of a collections project. How to brief your architectural team, how to plan a project, then into the built execution of their new World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre building. This included the design of racking, lifts (one large enough to take a lorry three storeys underground - now thats big), and strategies for risk management.

However, what most fascinated me today was a new archive store, on a much humbler scale than the BM, for the Science Museum Group, in a hanger in the middle of an old airfield, constructed with a steel frame, but using hempcrete as a hygroscopic construction material infill with good thermal qualities. This choice of construction methodology was to form a building envelope that assisted in sustainably keeping the temperature and humidity inside the building stable - without the dependance on a complicated building management system (BMS). Work on this is ongoing with systems being monitored and changed, but it is, to me, a really interesting topic to pursue.

Partly as we are lucky enough to be working on a new archive and collection store, but also as we have an interest for sustainable traditional materials. In this case, it seems that if used effectively these traditional materials - in a slightly different composition - can significantly reduce the fossil fuels consumed in the running and maintenance of a traditionally highly dependant building.

In relation to this topic, Jenny and I also recently visited the Somerset Heritage and Archive Services and had a tour around their facility to get a greater understanding of what objects and materials require specific conditions, spatial allowances, handling and logistics. We felt the need to do this as while we can read the good practice guidance on such environments there is no seeing items, objects and materials first hand.

Following these two recent experiences I am hoping to arrange a visit The Science Museum’s Wroughton site to visit this particular store. We would like to research their project which is the topic of a PHD in Civil Engineering at Bath University by Marta Leskard. The aim of this is to see what we can learn for our projects - or even if we could also work on some research in this field. We are using hemp products in another domestic project - and I hadn’t expected today to draw these two - a breathable traditional construction and a controlled archive store - the opposite ends of a controlled environment spectrum - to be drawn together today.

More to follow as our work and research progresses