Case Studies

Small Grant Scheme – Round 5

Southend Museums Service

Conservation of a waterlogged WWII parachute from the Thames Estuary

parachuteIn July 2016 Southend Museums Service will take possession of several hundred items from the Thames Estuary, recovered by Wessex Archaeology in advance of dredging for the new London Gateway Port at Stanford Le Hope. The objects range from fossils and mammoths’ teeth to cannons, guns and artillery from many periods, pieces of ships and boats, their cargo and their passengers’ possessions and parts of WWII aircraft. Much of the material has already been dried and stabilised but one item will be received still waterlogged; a WWII allied parachute, complete with ropes. Markings visible on the parachute read: ‘AN’, thought to stand for ‘Army Navy’ a standard US pattern parachute manufactured by various companies and widely used during WWII by pilots.

We have been advised by Wessex Archaeology’s conservator and an independent textile conservator that this fragile object should undergo conservation as a priority and that its current wet storage is far from ideal. We therefore applied for the Museums Essex funding for £500 to enable the initial stages of conservation (possibly freeze drying, depending upon the advice from the conservator). There will be further work required to enable us to display the parachute but the initial work will halt any further degradation in the meantime.

We hope that the conserved parachute will form part of a new display planned for Central Museum highlighting the various objects found in the Estuary and the huge range of materials, time periods and subjects that they represent. This display will reuse a show case and will complement another one featuring objects from the 1665 London shipwreck which has been funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund. We hope these two displays will be completed by autumn/winter 2016 – subject to more delays by archaeologists!


Small Grants Scheme –  Round 4

Chelmsford Museum

Mounting paper works of art for display and accessible storage

chelmsford-2Using £500 from the Small Grants Scheme we purchased a mount cutter and mounting board. We have a museum assistant who is trained in mount cutting and he has put it to immediate use. Since then we have been able to mount new acquisitions and older items that we were not previously able to mount. The result being that the items are better preserved and presented. Mounted items have included social history posters, works of art on paper and items from the Essex Regiment Museum collection. We are using standard size mounts that will enable us quickly and efficiently frame items for display. We are currently working on mounting work by the Bardfield artists for an exhibition due to open at the end of February. Overall, the mount cutter has already proven to be very useful and will continue to be so hopefully for many years.


Small Grants Scheme –  Round 4

Museum of Power

Interpretation of Working Machines when Static and providing enhanced Interpretation for guests with mobility impairments

The provision of a Swann CCTV system with 4 cameras has enabled us to  install cameras in the basement which allow able and guests with mobility impairments to see the pumps beneath the Lilleshall engine working when the engine is running.

We deviated from the initial proposal in as much that originally we intended fitting four cameras in the basement, but have only fitted 2 in the basement plus the remaining two showing images of other parts of the engine which are not easily seen from the ground . The main reason for doing this was due to difficulty in mounting cameras in meaningful positions in the basement, and when tried the images were almost the same as other cameras and this meaningless.

Problems were encountered with running cables in difficult locations which took a great deal longer than planned. Finally it was planned to display the images on the wall via an existing Hitatchi projector donated by Northumbrian Water, this proved to be unsuitable unless the images were viewed in the dark! So the images are now displayed on a 23” flat screen display.


Top LHS image is of the cam shaft at the top of the engine, Top RHS shows high pressure pumps in basement using infra red, Bottom LHS shows low pressure pumps infra red. Bottom RHS shows piston rods / cross heads, Any image can be selected or recorded moving pictures played back.


Small Grant Scheme – Round 1

 Essex Police Museum

At the end of 2013 we applied for a grant for £380 to help with the preservation and care of our collection, in storage.

We rely on donations and now a self-funded museum, we were unable to pay for much needed, new boxes to store our paper documents.

The boxes werBefore 1Beforee just standard office storage boxes, they were overfilled and heavy and many had collapsed. The paper archive was at a high risk of becoming damaged  and they were a health and safety risk to the volunteers and curator.

We spent the £380 on 32 new storage boxes, which are acid-free. They are smaller in height than the previous boxes, so they contain less material, making them lighter to carry which is a huge improvement for the museum staff. This also benefits the documents, giving them less room to move and fewer items stacked within the box, therefore preventing any damage.

The work was carried out by the volunteers and we are so impressed with this small change that we have made sure to allocate some of our very small budget, towards more storage boxes for 2014/15 to continue the good work.












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