During the week of 7 – 11 November 2011, the Booth Museum was closed for a well needed spruce up. The plan for the week was for staff from across Brighton Museum service to descend upon the Booth Museum and give it a thorough clean, whilst overhead contractors surveyed the skylights and roof. The following is a diary detailing the main jobs of the week:
Monday: Early arrivals helpedto clear the Victorian study in preparation for contractors coming to check the skylights and roof throughout the week. Staff removed the insect and egg cabinets from beneath the skylights above the first mezzanine to allow the construction of temporary walkways for the contractors. Mobile scaffolds and a lift were set up to allow cleaning and maintenance of high level cases and surfaces.
Keeper of the Booth Museum, Gerald Legg, gave a short demonstration on removing the Booth bird display cases from the walls, and removing the glass from the cases. Once shown, various team members started opening cases and polishing the inside surface of the glass, cleaning the birds inside and finally polishing and dusting the outside of the cases. This work continued across the week and took up a large portion of the week’s work.
Following a review of disability access at the Booth, the sailfish display case outside the bone gallery was moved and the wall behind it altered. The case now slides back into the wall, and can be pulled further out for viewing when requested. Whilst this work was carried out, it was noticed that mould had grown on the tail fin. The case was opened and the mould was cleaned off, with the rest of the case being dusted and cleaned in the process.
Tuesday: The heating pipes at the Booth Museum are situated in a trench circling the entire museum, and covered by metal gratings. The gratings were systematically lifted and the trench below was vacuumed out, with any loose change added to the donations piggy bank: over £15 was found in the grates around the pig alone!. However, during Tuesday’s cleaning of the heating pipes, a mass of fibrous material was found, causing everyone to be evacuated from the main building whilst experts were called to check for asbestos. Thankfully, the all clear was given after lunch and work could recommence.
Most of the staff who had come to help on Tuesday had returned to the Pavilion after the scare, so a skeleton crew got back to work. Unfortunately, whilst a steeplejack was hanging safety nets, dust from the roof was disturbed and set off a fire alarm, resulting in more disruption as the building was evacuated again.
Wednesday: A number of trophy heads stored on top of the rearmost cabinets were brought down for the first time in thirty years. The temporary store on top of the case was floored with wood panels making it a lot stronger for both storage and access. After a good clean up of the heads and horns previously stored here, it was decided that they should be exhibited rather than being put away for another few decades. At the end of the week, the heads and horns were mounted around the outside of the Victorian study, and are now on display to visitors.
Thursday: The cleaning continues, with the insect and egg drawers in the stores given a good clean, and checked for damage and pests. Downstairs, objects on open display, such as the bone gallery and discovery gallery, are dusted and vacuumed. Gum and other stains are removed from carpets, and damaged carpet tiles are re-laid or replaced.
Friday: All week the killer whale skeleton had been undergoing repairs. The right flipper was removed from the rest of the skeleton at the beginning of the week as the plaster filler originally holding the bones together was cracked or broken. A number of makeshift repairs in different colour fillers had left it looking patchy.
A strengthened plaster mix was applied to the flipper as well as to other parts of the skeleton still hanging in the gallery. When dry, the filler was sanded down and painted. The flipper was re-hung, and a much improved skeleton was ready for its adoring public!
The Victorian study was put back together, and the various ongoing jobs were gradually wound down. Equipment for high level cleaning was packed back into the van and taken back to the Pavilion. After a final vacuuming and last minute dusting and polishing, the museum was ready for visitors once more.
Many thanks to all the staff who came to assist during the closed week, and a special thank-you to Lucy Mutter for organising everyone and providing encouragement in the form of cakes and biscuits!
Lee Ismail, Curator of Natural Sciences