Katy Barrett, Collections Assistant at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science writes:
Working in museums, you soon learn that space is at a premium. It might all look beautifully displayed on airy glass shelves with matching labels in the galleries, but in the stores, every object shares its shelf with many companions. Any good museum also acquires objects on a regular basis. The Whipple Museum is just such a treasure trove, with its storage areas packed with weird and wonderful scientific instruments. The point of the ‘Store Stories’ project in our museum is to make some of these incredible objects more visible and accessible to the public, by updating the storage facilities.
The project will take place in several stages, moving around the stores one by one, to enable us to use the limited spare space that we have to install shiny new cases. The Whipple is in an old building, posing its own problems of oddly shaped stores with challenging environmental conditions. Each store needs to be emptied systematically, the old shelving systems removed, and the new cases installed. While we do this we will also inventory each store, allowing us to find ‘lost’ objects and reunite parts of objects that have previously been stored separately.
Unlike MAA and Zoology, our stores aren’t organised by collection, so we won’t be focusing on a particular area, although we do have sections separated out by material or fragility, like the radioactive objects! Instead, in these blogs, I’m going to focus on objects that catch my fancy as we organise the stores. I’m a PhD Student in the History and Philosophy of Science Department, of which the Whipple is part, and have helped out in the museum off and on for a couple of years. Yet, it’s still extraordinary to stumble across the Whipple’s treasures as I inventory and re-pack them with the Museum’s collections staff. So far my overwhelming impression is of the sheer number of historic boxes for instruments that the museum contains; something I’ll discuss in a future blogpost.