OR The Last of the Box Makers by Volunteer Mary Crane
Everyone who worked on the Pitt-Rivers collection (and probably anyone who has attended a coffee morning) will know that some larger museum items, eg model stone Celtic crosses, need to be packed in purpose-made boxes.
Confronted with an instruction sheet, two thicknesses of corrugated card, a metre rule, pencil, craft knife, glue gun and tape, I think all of us had a go, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, at making boxes.
Once all the Pitt-Rivers artefacts were safely stowed away, most volunteers moved on to other areas of the museum’s collections. However, when Adrian realised he still had a few willing box-makers (and lots of unused card) he introduced four of us to the History Store (up in the ‘gods’ behind a no-entry curtain!). There we found large models of Stonehenge, of barrows, and of flint mines and the like. Sue and Alan Haddock, Roger Collins and I have slowly worked our way through, producing custom-made boxes for these, and packing objects away.
Some boxes had to have little flaps at the side so that hands would be able to reach in and extract the models. Some had to have a front flap and a movable tray so that the object inside could be pulled out. Others have flip down sides. We were constrained by the size, shape and weight of each object, the amount of storage space on shelves, and, increasingly as time went on, by the size of the pieces of cardboard we had left.
Some models, like that of the flint mine, had little model people (and a dog!) attached, and all these had to be carefully swaddled. Packing became quite an art as once in the box, the object had to be immovable and protected from inadvertent knocks. Presumably quite a lot of these objects will be moved to the new storage unit at Old Sarum and we expect them to be able to survive the journey intact.
There are just a few of the very large models left. The Haddocks have moved on to other volunteer work and Roger and I are now the only box makers left. While we await some more large sheets of card, Adrian has found us some clocks to box and pack. What else will he find, we wonder?! It is very satisfying though, to know that we are helping to protect the museum’s collections for future generations.
As for me, I enjoy making boxes. I can’t speak for Roger!