Walworth Town Hall

Objects safe after Cuming Museum fire

Patrick Steel, 25.03.2014
920 objects conserved and in storage
A year on from the fire at the Cuming Museum in Southwark, London, conservators have saved 920 of the museum’s 950 objects and most of the collection is now in storage.

Museums Journal understands that most of the objects needed only minimal conservation.



Conservator Janie Lightfoot dealt with the objects that suffered the most damage. Harwell, a specialist drying company, conserved a number of objects that sufferred water damage; Simon Moore conserved the natural history collection; and Plowden Smith conserved about 400 other objects in several batches.

The British Museum provided volunteers to help with documentation and packing of the objects, and conservators from the British Museum and the Horniman Museum helped with collections advice.

The base of one of two Martinware Wally Birds on loan from the British Museum was damaged in the fire, but the museum was able to restore the hairline crack.

The Museum of London Archaeology was appointed by the council’s insurers for the official salvage and recovery operation in December, which followed the rescue of around 450 objects by the London Fire Brigade at the time of the fire. Some objects were also rescued when the building was cleared in September last year.

All the work so far has been covered by the local authority’s insurers.

The museum service is temporarily housed at Chumleigh Gardens while Walworth Town Hall is being refurbished. The redeveloped building will include space for the Cuming collection alongside a space for events, exhibitions and performances.

The council has not revealed a timescale for the development of the town hall, but Museums Journal understands that museum staff hope to be back in the building in two to three years’ time.

Despite not having a building the museum service has continued to run its HLF projects and a full education and events programme alongside the conservation work.

Earlier this month the museum received £72,000 in Strategic Support funding from the arts council that will enable it to run a collections care project, a family outreach project in Southwark’s libraries, improve its website, and ensure access to its collections.

Councillor Veronica Ward, cabinet member for culture, leisure, sport and volunteering, said: “We would like to thank the community for their continued support in the aftermath of such a terrible incident last March."

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