Clear the Decks!

Hello, it's me Mark again, and I'm the volunteer with the Curatorial team at the British Motor Museum.  Since my last blog Assistant Curator Catherine and I have been very busy working through the last few objects in the closed store to "clear the decks" a little before we can start photographing, cataloguing and describing the condition of all the items.  When the team set up the open store last year we were racing against a deadline of Summer 2016 to open "Automobilia" as it has very aptly been named and we didn't have much chance to complete the archiving duties of the 4000 plus objects at the time.  This next and final stage will take place over the next year, although we are hoping to at least make a start before Christmas.

In finishing off the items in the closed store Cat and I were faced with boxes and boxes of "IBCAM" medals, car and appliance badges, ties, flags and the last of the pictures we'd carted round from the old workshop store several months previously. Out of all these items it was probably the medals and car badges we feared the most since there were just so many of them and, in the case of car badges, so many different types and manufacturers.

IBCAM stands for Institute of British Carriage and Automobile Manufacturers and was basically an award scheme for car and commercial vehicle manufactures across several decades (we've found medals from the 'Twenties right up to the 'Eighties) for body styling and manufacture. There were various classes of type of body (sports, open, enclosed, and so on) not to mention list price of the vehicle. For each combination of type and price there were bronze, silver and gold awards and we reckon we unearthed examples of virtually everyone; certainly not a full set but it seemed like it at times.

Most of the medals were a couple of inches in diameter, nicely engraved and stored in a padded box marked with the manufacturer's name of Thomas Fattorini of Birmingham. Fattorini is a well-known specialist in this market and established the Regent Street works in Birmingham in 1927. The sixth generation Fattorini still runs the shriving business to this very day and they still export all over the world, claiming to produce the widest variety of plastic name badges in the country.

Unsurprisingly many of the medals we processed had been awarded to Riley, Wolseley, Austin and Morris with a variety of first, second and third places. Cat typed the condition reports while David Bailey here photographed them having very carefully cleaned at least the worst affected silver medals. We have literally just finished off several hundred examples of these awards and now they can rest in peace until someone wants to inspect them.

Back in August Sonja told me that I had been nominated me for an award in the "Above and Beyond Individual" category at the 2017 West Midlands Museum Development Volunteer Awards to be held on 19 September at the Hippodrome in Birmingham. I was truly flattered to have been considered worthy of an award and it's great to be recognised doing something that I really enjoy and I'm very grateful to Sonja and Stephen but especially to Cat for putting up with me twice a week and, I gather, writing the nomination itself. Whilst I didn't actually win the award, it was humbling to learn that the winner was a lady from the Lace Museum who had virtually single-handedly set up the museum from scratch over twenty years or so and was still involved in literally everything from putting together fund raising schemes to cleaning the visitors' lavatories – a very worthy winner indeed.  Another similarly worthy winner was our very own Vince Hall who was nominated for and went on to win the "Special Collections Award" for his work on the Museum's Oral History project - well done Vince!  It was a lovely evening that my wife Jill and I along with Sonja and Cat really enjoyed with some top-notch entertainment and wonderful stories of fellow museum volunteers.  Thanks again!

Whilst all this had been going on, Curator Stephen Laing had been mentioning for some time that Cat and I should consider changing some of the displays in Automobilia simply so returning visitors can see something else of interest and to give us a chance to "air" some other interesting items from our endless store of fascinating artefacts.

There had been a picnic set and rug on display ever since Automobilia first opened and we felt that with winter approaching (second time around…), it was time to change it to something more appropriate. I'm not sure who actually had the idea, I think it was a joint one, but with the cold weather approaching Cat and I thought that a winter motoring theme might work and it helped that we already had a few related items in store. I also found a few other items in my garage which seemed to fit and after an hour or so we were standing looking at the fruits of our labour: a car battery and charger, antifreeze and winter tyre adverts from old Car Mechanics magazines, an under bonnet heater, an electric screen demister, a pair of my wife's driving gloves from her classic Mini driving days and a radiator muff which we moved from another cabinet in the store. Along with a few other items, some wooden blocks, the rug cunningly re-used as a travelling rug and Cat's artistic touch with the arrangement and we were pleased with the result – I even came up with a few words to explain to the casual visitor what it was all about.

Hopefully the next time you hear from me Cat and I will have made a good start on cataloguing all those items in Automobilia...

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