Monday, 27 February 2012

A Loan to Whitby

Heather Richardson, Head of Conservation at the Pitt Rivers Museum, recently couriered some objects from our Cook-Voyage collections to Whitby.  She writes:

'The Pitt Rivers Museum has just loaned 12 Pacific island objects to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, North Yorkshire, for the temporary exhibition “Eating the Exotic”. Ten of the twelve objects related to food are from the Cook voyages, nine from the Forster Collection and one from the Banks Collection. They include fish hooks, a kava bowl and a fern root beater.
Prior to sending objects on loan conservators must check that they are suitable to travel and then prepare condition reports detailing all existing scratches, accretions or other markings. The conservators then pack the objects securely into crates lined with inert foam to cushion the objects while in transit.

Fish hooks packed in cut-outs in the foam near the top of the crate

Eleven of the objects travelling to Whitby fitted into an existing packing crate and a new crate was made to transport the large Tongan mat made from hibiscus fibre with Pandanus decoration (1886.1.1177) detailed in an earlier blog posting. Instructions on how the crates are packed and unpacked were also compiled.
On Monday 20th February the crates were loaded onto a special truck with air ride suspension and securely strapped in place by the drivers, who were both experienced art handlers. As with all loans of objects from the Pitt Rivers a courier then travelled with the objects throughout the journey from Oxford to Whitby, which took six hours.
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is situated within a 17th Century harbour-front house and is where James Cook was apprenticed to Captain John Walker in 1746.

View from the garden of the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.  A replica of the Endeavour is in the foreground, which is about 40% of the ships original size

The attic where Cook stayed as an apprentice is now used by the museum for temporary exhibitions.  On arrival at Whitby the crates were unloaded and carried down Grape Lane to the museum, which is too narrow for vehicle access. The crates proved marginally too wide for some of the very narrow doorways of the house, so the objects were carefully unpacked in a room on the ground floor and carried up the narrow stairs to the attic.
Over the next two days the objects were checked against the condition reports to ensure no new damage had occurred during transit, before positioning them in three display cases.

A case containing kava bowls and a Tongan mat from the Pitt Rivers

While designing the layout of the display cases labels were also checked for the correct attributions and positioned inside the cases. All three cases needed to be securely locked before the courier was allowed to depart on the 22nd February.

A large shark hook from Tahiti, part of the Banks (First Voyage) collection
The exhibition will open to the public on 1st March and run until the museum closes for winter on the 31st October 2012.'