Vital work to take place in year-long project to protect Powell-Cotton Museum collection

Inside the Powell-Cotton Museum

A year-long essential conservation project is to take place on the collection at The Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington.

Significant work to protect items at the museum comes after the collections team became concerned at the end of last year about challenges including mould affecting material culture objects and concerns about pests within one of the museum’s Natural History stores.

Supported by the Powell-Cotton Trust, the museum will  increase the work it does on a daily basis to conserve and protect the spanning the whole of 2023 in a major commitment of time, resource, and an initial £50,000 funding.

The project will involve systematically removing from storage, individually cleaning and treating thousands of objects.

The collection is expansive with more than 20, 000 ethnographic objects, 6,500 mammal specimens from Africa and India, and fine and decorative arts from across Asia.

As well as displaying some of the oldest and largest taxidermy habitat dioramas in Europe (including the Kashmir Diorama which was completed in 1910), the museum also houses an internationally significant primate collection and important historic collections from South Sudan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Uganda.

It is also home to the largest collection of Angolan artefacts in Europe. The collections are accompanied by detailed archival and photographic records which contextualize them. This archive of supportive material contains over 30,000 photographs and 40,000 documents. The museum also houses approximately 8,000 archaeological finds from the Thanet coastline.

Head of Collections, Dr. Nicola Stylianou said: “We take our responsibility to care for the collection very seriously and it has to be our first priority. We care for the collection on behalf of the local community, our visitors and researchers and people from the countries where the collections originated.

“We see this work as an extension of our ‘People Matter’ agenda because ultimately the important thing about the collection are the people that are connected to it across the globe.”

Alongside the conservation work, the Powell-Cotton Museum will also undertake significant repairs to the site’s roof this year to prevent water ingress which can seriously affect the atmospheric conditions of the building. The floors in Galleries 2 and 3, which are beyond repair, will also be replaced.

A museum spokesperson said: “The ongoing work of ‘Reimagining the Museum’ also remains a key priority but the shift in focus towards conservation work is a necessary step. “The museum’s responsibility to protect the objects in its care, and of course the individual histories and stories behind those objects is the ultimate priority – and to achieve this we must move this essential work forward.

“The planned building work also offers the opportunity to prepare the space properly for the re-interpretation projects that have been temporarily postponed during these essential works.”

Powell Cotton Museum

Powell-Cotton Museum CEO Nigel Lewis said: “We are embarking on a long-term plan of conservation and repair to the museum in order to protect the collection to ensure it continues to provide an educational based learning asset for decades and generations to come.  The whole team is excited that this work not only ensures the continued protection of the collection but allows us to continue to tell the story of our history, artefacts and the culture it represents.”

Open to visitors

The museum will open from Saturday 11th February to Sunday 29th October, for weekends, bank holidays, and a programme of events.

The Trust says the site will continue to inform, educate and entertain visitors throughout the year although there may be an unavoidable need to temporarily close some galleries or remove some objects from display during the conservation work. In the first instance, Gallery 3 will be closed to the public, and Gallery 2 will be closed unless visitors are on a ‘Highlights’ tour. Tours are complimentary.

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  1. Good news.
    I just hope that this “cleaning” isn’t also used as an opportunity to do what has been done by museums & galleries elsewhere. If it wasn’t for “colonialism” the collection wouldn’t even exist.

    • No that’ll a forgone conclusion decided long ago, this is just different words for the same result. The creep of alternative meaning to language to further agendas, the current “phrase du jour” -Lived Experience- which is being manipulated to mean that if someone says something affected them it did and so it’s nigh on uncontestable fact.
      A while back there were a stream of articles saying that tenants wanted to live within a 15 minute walk of main services etc. Just a way of getting the notion of the “15 minute city” into peoples heads and notionally seen as a good idea and popular, then the real idea pops up 18 months later, all part of the LTN’s in london and the eventual curbing of car ownership and travel deemed unnecessary. Throw in digital ID and CBDC ( the move towards a cashless society is the first baby step) and you’ve changed society completely, won’t affect most of us as it’ll take a good while to take root , but todays school kids are being brainwashed so won’t know any difference.

      • I didn’t know the museum was putting an LTN in Birchngton. This is very worrying. Have the council agreed to them doing this?

  2. I wouldn’t say that Claude.
    I would say that the inability to recall the lessons from History, both good & bad, may lead to more repeated mistakes being made and, good practice opportunities for the future being missed.

    • Precisely – it is the ”deletion” of elements of history that will ultimately do more harm than good. The ”we don’t like it so we will destroy it” brigade are really the petty minded bigots.

      I always thought we were supposed to learn from history. There will be nothing left to learn if the ”wokeraty” have their way and eradicate it.

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