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June 2017

Catherine again, back with an update behind the scenes here at the British Motor Museum. It’s been a long time since my last update – but I can promise you there is good reason!

If you cast your minds back about a year, the Museum had just reopened and rebranded, which meant an awful lot of packing, unpacking and documenting of objects. A year and a bit on and I can tell you that not much has changed because we are still trawling through cataloguing objects, although we have been making great progress! There are always things going on and after the renovation, the next big project was our public open access store.

Luckily for me, back in April of last year, I had an amazing assistant! Rosie came to me from Northampton Leather Conservation Centre as part of a weeklong training exchange. Rosie helped me to move our stores – which meant that finally at the end of 2016 the open access store was, well, open.

By March of this year it was high time that I returned the favour to the Leather Conservation Centre! I spent a few days working with them on some restoration of car seats, learning about leather conservation and care as well as being able to look around the tannery based at the University. I must say, after spending a few days individually sticking down loose fragments of leather – I missed all my packing and moving of objects again!

While it was fun and interesting to do something a bit different – I did start to miss the little store back at the Museum. It wasn’t long after I was back though, that it all started again with another big project for the curatorial team. This time it was preparation for our new temporary exhibition, 50 motoring treasures.

 

The exhibition, which opened in mid-May this year highlights 50 interesting objects in the history of the motor car. Using lesser known objects and archival materials we are able to illustrate this from a new and different perspective – and not just rely on using vehicles.

As a trainee, this was my first experience working on such a big exhibition project – and there was so much more involved than I expected. Between the Museum and the Archive we had 50 objects to choose, prep, measure and display ready for opening on the 19 May.

One of the most exciting things we had to do in preparation for this was conservation for some amazing stained glass windows from the Automotive Products factory, Leamington Spa. When they arrived at the Museum, they were a little worse for wear….

Many segments of the glass where cracked and broken and we painstakingly matched the broken shards to rebuild what we could of the windows using sticky back film.

But this was not ideal for display and as the opening of the exhibition approached, it was decided that we needed to make them a little more…presentable. We used Classic Glass, a Warwick based stained glass restoration service who were fantastic! Chris, who set up the business, was able to source us some new glass from the Czech Republic. He replaced the cracked, smashed and missing pieces and expertly matching the colour and etching patterns. The results were incredible and you can see the newly restored windows up on our mezzanine in the now open exhibition.

But another highlight to the exhibition I must plug is the Hidden Treasures trail. My fellow trainees Alice (Education) and Mollie (Archive) and I spent some time thinking about the other treasures we have in our collection, particularly those less obvious ones that may be out on display, but not necessarily noticed. We produced the Hidden Treasures trail to help unlock the interesting stories and histories behind these other items.

I wish I could say that now the exhibition is open, the curatorial team are having a well-deserved break – but alas, our work is never done! With all of this object moving and recording finally coming to an end (I hope…) on the horizon we have a lot of documentation to sort and files to manage, but I’m sure there will also be some interesting changes coming up in the Museum too. Keep your eyes peeled!

Cat at the 50 Object Exhibition