From Audit to Repacking: Major collections move project reaches important milestone for History of Science Museum

The Collections Move Project across the four university museums has achieved a significant milestone in its six-year programme. The project aims to move objects from the offsite stores of the four museums into the new Collections Teaching and Research Centre (CTRC) in Oxford and the new Collections Storage Facility (CSF) in Swindon. On 10 March 2023, the project successfully completed an audit and repacking of all History of Science Museum (HSM) collections stored offsite in preparation for the move next year and long-term storage.

Over seven months, the team audited and repacked 19,580 History of Science Museum objects, which presented various handling and packing challenges due to the nature of the collections. The team identified a few of their favourite objects including a 'detective' camera designed to be concealed in a waistcoat and Marconi's sword-stick and scabbard. These collections had already been moved out of their previous storage place, the old Osney Power Station, back in 2017/2018 as part of a separate decant project and were then stored in the temporary store. This project involved separating out the collections for their intended final storage destinations and conducting a hazard audit of the collection to identify key risks ahead of the move into the new stores.

The overall collections move project has already repacked and moved around 190,000 objects from the four university museums’ offsite stores into temporary storage. This project will ensure that the collections are preserved for future generations and can be accessed and studied by researchers and scholars in years to come through the two new research and storage facilities.

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Click on images to enlarge.

"A large portion of the collection was donated by the Marconi company. Potentially worn by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi himself, these objects really stood out as unusual amongst all the scientific instruments." Lucy Crossfield, Collections Move Team

Marconi's Sword-Stick and Scabbard, c. 1900 [2004-9/462], Inventory No. 74444
Marconi's Sword-Stick with cane handle and shaft, with gilt-metal band in the form of a snake with a turquoise eye. Steel blade marked 'Non ti fidar di me se il cor ti manca' ('Trust not in me if your heart be faint'). With scabbard.

Civilian Gentleman's Ceremonial Sword and Scabbard, by J. B. Johnstone, London, c. 1902" [2004-9], Inventory No. 55702
Sword with steel hilt with cut-steel decoration, engraved steel blade and black leather scabard. Previously catalogued with Civilian Gentleman's Cocked Hat (Inv. Num. 78080).

Civilian Gentleman's Ceremonial Cocked Hat, by J. B. Johnstone, London, c. 1902 [2004-9/160], J.B.Johnstone, Inventory No. 78080
Marconi's civilian gentleman's black cocked hat, made of cloth with cut-steel chains and a black rossette. Previously catalogued with Civilian Gentleman's Ceremonial Sword (Inv. Num. 55702).

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"Paintings were an uncommon object amongst the HSM collections being repacked and this one in particular was a favourite amongst the team." Jennifer Donovan, Collections Move Team

'Animals in a Garden', Painting (Oil on Canvas, Framed), Artist Unknown, Probably 19th Century, Inventory No. 35341
Oil painting on canvas depicting animals in a landscape. A 19th century date is likely due to the use of machine-made canvas. Framed and unglazed. Also note the presence of a dodo in lower left corner.

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"These are just a few examples of the large collection of surgical instruments being repacked at the temporary store ready for long-term storage. This particular set were used in gynaecology, which was eye opening for all of the team." Jennifer Donovan, Collections Move Team

Gynaecological Instruments, Inventory No. 46594
Set of gynaecological instruments associated with Mason or Hewitts.

Midwifery Forceps, Inventory No. 40148
Set of steel midwifery forceps. Forceps have a grooved handle which forms a grip for user's hands. Each half of forceps connect above the handle to form a crossover point. Beyond crossover point each half of forceps form a hollow, curved tear-drop shape.

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"We had never seen or heard of a camera being used in this way. Its unique shape and way of functioning is fascinating. Early camera history is intriguing." Giles Lingwood, Collections Move Team

Stirn Pattern Detective/Concealed Waistcoat Camera by Dubroni, Paris, Inventory No. 88966
Description from a very similar object: A 'detective' camera designed to be concealed in a waist coat. A circular metal camera.


Read about the Collections Move Project

Read the last project update