Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ships Are Back

The first objects we removed from the museum to make way for our renovations in 2008 were the model ships that graced our lower hallway. Finally, after over three years of being safely packed away in storage, the ships are back on view.

The ships actually returned to the museum from off-site storage over the summer with the bulk of our collections. They've been tucked away in our on-site vaults. Their large glass display cases, however, returned just recently. We held off bringing the cases back until now so that we had unobstructed access in our lower hallway, not only to move the larger crates that contained our returning collections, but also for the equipment contractors had to bring through during the roof replacement project.

Once the cases were unwrapped, we had to thoroughly clean them inside and out before the ships could be installed. I had the "pleasure" of climbing inside a couple of the cases to wipe down the glass and remove dust and debris from the bases (see right). It was claustrophobic, but worth the trouble. The ships themselves travelled fairly well despite the fragility of their tiny parts and the brittleness of their aging rigging. We dusted the ships off with small, soft brushes, repositioned some of the loose hatches and lifeboats that had shifted during travel. And then, very carefully, we smoothly slid each ship back into its case. This required multiple sets of eyes to make sure no appendages caught on the cases' narrow openings. It was not quite as difficult as, say, putting ships into bottles, but challenging nonetheless.

So the ships are finally home. I truly understand how popular these are with our visitors now. The lower hallway could not be closed off so the public was free to roam while we were installing the ships in their cases. People stopped and watched, fascinated by our work and the intricate details of the models. One visitor said, "Thank goodness the ships are back!" Our thoughts exactly!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

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