The Hunterian is currently based at the University of Glasgow

The Hunterian takes new approaches to storage

Nicola Sullivan, 01.11.2016
Move to Kelvin Hall will see the transfer of 1.5 million objects
The Hunterian in Glasgow has taken new approaches to the storage of its collections as part of the museum’s phased move to Kelvin Hall.

The first part of the project involves moving 1.5 million objects and specimens from nine different stores located on the campus of the University of Glasgow to new storage facilities that have been built as part of a £35m redevelopment at Kelvin Hall.

Items will be accessed in the Collections Study Centre, comprising a central collections depot, object study rooms, teaching labs and conservation and digitisation studios.

Moving so many items has proved challenging and highlighted a number of major legacy issues with collections storage and documentation, said David Gaimster, the director of the Hunterian. But it also allowed the museum look at the relevance of some parts of the collection in light of long-term goals, he added.

“This is a major task of collections review and decant preparation, and we anticipate the final objects to move into the store by the end of 2017," he said.

All of the Hunterian’s study collections will be located in a single store, which is 990 sq m and has a double decker storage unit reaching 4.2m. Each shelf, rack, box and tray is barcoded and an app has been created to scan the barcodes allowing staff to track the movement of collections in real time. “This tracking system is essential for us to efficiently and securely service teaching and research in the Collections Study Centre," said Gaimster. 

The centre does not adopt the traditional open access model, said Gaimster, but instead serves as a laboratory in which collections and objects are brought into purpose-designed teaching spaces according or academic or educational purposes.

“The centre will establish new standards in collections and object-based research, teaching, training and public engagement,” said Gaimster.

Kelvin Hall will also be used to house the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive and 40,000 objects from Glasgow Museums. The development, which will be officially opened by first minister Nicola Sturgeon on 11 November, also includes a health and fitness centre.

Delegates attending the MA’s conference and exhibition in Glasgow next week will get to enjoy the new space during the welcome reception taking place from 1900-2100 on 6 November. And those attending an early morning tour from 0730-0830 on 7 November will be given a sneak preview of the stores and the research and training rooms. For more details check the full conference guide.    

More information on the Hunterian’s move to Kelvin Hall will also be shared at an MP workshop taking place in the exhibition hall between 1500-1530 on 8 November. The session will highlight the challenges involved in the transfer of so many objects but also the new approaches to storage that have opened up more of the collection to the public, students and researchers.

The workshop is free to attend and will be presented by Malcolm Chapman, the head of collections management, the Hunterian and Andy Duck, the head of marketing and communications, Bruynzeel Storage Systems. The full programme of MP workshops can be viewed here.