Collection Moving Nature


The moving project has taken on the big animals at the museum as we mentioned in an earlier blogpost. Unfortunately for us the big animals include a stuffed African elephant. The elephant is not that big (for being an African elephant) but it’s very heavy! What the stuffing material is made of is unknown but unfortunately for us it’s not straw or any other light-weight material.


A sunny day in July seven men from a moving company came to the museum to help move the elephant out of the display case and onto a pallet. The whole operation went rather smooth but we are very happy it’s not every day we have to move an elephant of approximately 600 kg. The elephant is now mobile on a pallet and ready for new adventures.


To move the elephant the moving men had to use suction cups and crowbars.




The elephant is mobile!

Collection Culture

Say what?

We have, for now, left the chests behind and started working on the rural collection. This collection turned out to be an unexpected challenge. The first challenge that arose was: “Do you see a museum number on this one?” “Hmm, no I can’t find one either”. It turned out that most of the objects had no museum number on them and without a number you can’t register them or find them in any database. We then thought that maybe if we looked up the objects name we might be able to find them and that brought about the next challenge. What on earth is the name of this object and what was it used for? Turns out it was rather difficult to name most of the objects or even say what they were used for.

Let me show some examples. The object in the picture is made of wood and has moveable blocks that is stuck to the top with strings but what is it?


Apparently it was a rat trap! The woodblocks were lifted, food put in, and when the rat went in to eat the blocks would fall and kill the rat.

The object under is made of wood and has a pointy metal tip. In the other end the wood is hollowed out and there’s a hole. It also normally comes with a lid to close it with but it was missing here. Any guesses what it is?

It’s a “budstikke” which resembles the function of the fiery cross in England. It was in the shape of an arrow and people put messages in the hollow end closed the lid and then delivered it to the recipient. If the recipient was not home the sharp tip was used to place it in the doorframe like in the picture under.

The many curious objects like this made it rather difficult to name objects and some of the names we found meant nothing to us and were almost impossible to pronounce like «nykjestyng» and “spjutedregg”!


Collection Culture

Treasure hunt

The last couple of weeks we have been hard at work photographing, cleaning, registering and packing a large amount of chests in all colors and sizes. The work has sometimes resembled a little treasure hunt since some of the chests have revealed exciting details. The pictures below illustrate some of the things we have found.

Beautifully made lock

When we opened this chest from around 1780 we found this beautiful and intricate lock mechanism. The chest belonged to the smith and clockmakers guild in Bergen.

Letters used as lining

These letters were discovered inside a leather trunk from the 18th hundred. The letters were send to a Hans Hvid and Clara Wold and then reused as lining for the trunk. The lining also consisted of reused newspaper and book pages that were glued to the inside of the trunk.

Collection of lacqure seals

In this chest we found a large collection of lacqure seals that nobody knew the museum owned. The collection was carefully organized and recorded i five books that were also found in the chest.



Photo station

In organizing the workflow we have adapted a systematic approach, making the move easier by setting up different “stations” around the conservation lab. The objects are all stored in a temporary storage facility right next to the conservation lab. From the storage the objects are moved on a trolley to the first station in the lab, which is the photo station.  At the photo station we take a picture of each object from the front that will later be put into our moving database. The picture underneath illustrates how the photo station is set up and how it works.



The photos are purely for identification but our photo conservator couldn’t help but set it up in a professional manner. After the photo station the objects are taken to the cleaning station. More about this in another post!

Collection Culture


Some of the first objects that are being moved to the new central storage are a number of chests. The chests vary in size and shape from little manageable handy ones to huge 300+ kg ones. Many of the chests have at least one lock and many of the bigger ones have several locks and therefor several corresponding keys. What we have discovered, is that some of the chests are locked and we cannot open them to clean them inside or to check if there is anything in them.


The tricky part came when (to our horror) we found that many of the keys have not been kept with the corresponding chests. Some of the keys have been removed from their chest and put together in one huge stack or lost at some point in their lives. Yesterday we moved the great stack of different keys to the conservation department and started looking through them to try and find any numbering or identification on the keys that would enable us to match them to their corresponding chest. Some of the keys are numbered and have tags, some have unreadable old tags attached, some of them have numbers written on them and some have no identification at all. We found out pretty fast that many of the keys aren’t for chests at all, but for cupboards, drawers and even for doors!

It would be too much work to take out every chest from storage and try all the keys now. Instead we have arranged all the keys in different groups, so they are easy to find, when we start cleaning and packing the chests. When we start working on a chest without a key we’ll go to the board with keys and check if there’s one matching the chest. Hopefully we’ll be able to match some of the keys and chests and maybe we can open some of the chests that have been locked for many years. Nobody knows what the locked chests contain or if they contain anything at all. It will surely be a very exciting key bingo if we manage to unlock any chests and we’ll be sure to make a new blog post about it so keep following!

Collection Preventive conservation

Danger! Danger! Insects!

There are many dangers that threaten our natural- and cultural artifacts and it’s these dangers that conservators work to prevent. Among them are sunlight, water, heat, mold, insects and rodents. All these elements have a bad influence on objects and make them deteriorate faster. We all know what happens if you leave a colored t-shirt in the sun for too long or wash it repeatedly. The t-shirts color becomes faded and boring and it’s the same things that happen to museum objects if left in the sun or if people repeatedly use the camera flash on the same object in the exhibitions.

Small insects can also pose a great threat to objects and they are very hard to get rid of (as anyone who has tried a termite, ant or bedbug infestation in their own home knows). Insects can multiply very fast and feed off the museum objects and if they are left alone they can completely destroy objects. The picture underneath demonstrates how insects (in this case woodworm) can completely undermine the woods structure, and thereby destroy the object.

The picture under shows different species of woodworm as adults (woodworms are worms when they are born and mature into beetles like the ones on the picture).

In the past objects were sometimes treated with pesticides containing arsenic, mercury or lead to protect the objects against harmful insects. Today this practice poses problems to conservators as arsenic, mercury and lead are all toxic to humans as well as to insects and museum staff in  the past weren’t very good at recording what they did to which object. That means that conservators today have a hard time knowing what objects have been treated with these components and which haven’t. Today conservators use biological and mechanical non-toxic ways of preventing insects in museum collection but they can sadly never be completely avoided and they will always be a great danger to cultural artifacts.

Collection Moving

Picture perfect

Moving so many precious objects is a great challenge. Many of them are big and difficult to handle and others are so small they are hard to keep track off. All the objects will be cleaned and checked before they are packed and send of to be frozen.  The reason most of the objects are frozen before they enter the new storage, is to be sure that they are free of possible pests so we don’t bring old contamination in. The remaining objects will be quarantined for a period so we can be sure they are “clean”.

Before any work can be done to the objects the conservators have to make sure that the objects are well documented. This means that we take photos and write down their conservational condition before we start doing anything to them. That way we are sure of how the objects looked before and after they are cleaned and moved.

Therefor the photo station is very important.  Here we take pictures of the objects and we have to make sure that the pictures show just how the objects look. The photos have to show the correct color of the object and it has to have the right exposure so that the object looks like what we see and isn’t too dark or too light.

The picture underneath shows how different an object (in this case a radio) can look when the camera isn’t properly calibrated.


We’re off!

Welcome to the moving projects new blog!

We, at the museums conservation unit, would like to welcome you all in this very first post. The great moving project will soon commence and therefor we thought it would be nice with a blog where everyone can keep updated on just what we’re up to. The museums conservation unit consists of a very international bunch of staff members that specializes in many areas of conservation. This blog is going to be our diary of the moving process and we hope to have news for you every 1-2 weeks. Here we will keep you updated on how the project is evolving, what we find (unexpected finds always occur during such a big project), what problems we encounter and the solutions we find. We also hope to post lots of pictures so you can get a look into the “hidden” side of the museum work.

We hope you enjoy!