We started 2019 by celebrating the work of the Hazards and Inventory teams at Blythe House, who had located, hazard checked, updated records for and barcoded 100,000 objects as part of our ambitious project to reveal more of the collection than ever before.
In late February construction company Kier broke ground at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire, beginning construction of a vast new collection management facility (known as Building ONE) which will become home to most of the collection.
By early May the steel structure of Building ONE began to take shape, with guests including the then Arts Minister and media visiting to see our progress.
It’s amazing how quickly you can go from a muddy field to huge new building.
We also refurbished office spaces, part of ongoing site improvements and preparations for the start of public tours, school and research visits to the new collection management facility in 2023.
Detailed discussions about the internal layout of the facility and planning for how the National Collections Centre will operate once the facility opens also began, bringing people together from across the Science Museum Group to consider these complex issues.
The team have also started the huge task of studying and preparing some of the 20,000 larger objects already at the National Collections Centre which will move into the new facility.
By the end of the year the team had packed 35,614 objects (in over 4,000 containers), almost 120,000 objects had been photographed (new images are published online monthly) and 200,000 objects had been recorded and checked for hazards.
Seventy-five people kindly donated their time to volunteer at Blythe House, with six more people volunteering at the National Collections Centre this year.
Collectively they gave 4,631 hours of their time, working closely with the collection and assisting our photography and packing teams.
In 2019 we continued to increase and improve our knowledge of the collection, unearthing notebooks belonging to James Watt and objects related to chemist Frances Micklethwait.
In a real team effort, we also improved the records of 2,528 almost identical looking valves. “Valvehalla” as it became known was just one of over 1,500 times that the Collection Information team helped to better understand and document the collection.
We also ran an Object Lottery with the Inventory Team, enabling our Twitter followers to spontaneously engage with 60 objects from the collection.
We now have more than 80,000 photographs of the collection online (double where we were at the start of the year).
These images have been seen over 325,000 times through Museum in a Tab, the Google Chrome Extension we published earlier this year. It’s even helped a colleague at the Science and Industry Museum uncover a mystery object.
Looking ahead, we will finish construction of Building ONE in 2020 ready to start moving objects into the new facility later in the year. At Blythe House, our Inventory team are on track to have studied all 300,000+ objects by the end of 2020, with photography and packing of the collection continuing at speed.
We’ll continue to create interesting online stories, blog posts and short films, and develop new ways to explore the collection as it becomes ever more digitised.
We’ll also release a podcast for the first time – so watch this space.