Entry 2 – preparing to move the chemistry collection
By Dr Rupert Cole, Associate Curator of Chemistry at the Science Museum
When I began the job in April this year, the Science Museum was in the early stages of a huge project to move around 300,000 objects from its store at Blythe House in West London to a brand-new facility at the National Collections Centre at Wroughton, Swindon.
A large chunk of my role has been to help get the chemistry collections ready for the move.
In going through the 10,000 or so chemistry objects, we have had the opportunity to right some historic documentation wrongs that have been evading curatorial attention for years, sometimes decades.
One such pickle was 1978-113. You only had to look at 1978-113 to see it was a problem…
1978-113, otherwise known as "Miscellaneous collection relating to the development and use of dyes by the Morton family", consists of many boxes, sitting across multiples shelves and bays in its storeroom.
The problem with 1978-113 was that it was not one object, but hundreds all on one museum number and record...
The first step was to investigate our files for 1978-113 for clues and information for how we might catalogue it properly, making sure every item has its own record.
The collection arrived at the Science Museum from the Morton family in the mid-1970s. James Morton (1867–1943) was a Scottish pioneer of colour-fast dyes.
One of the other joys of the project was collaborating with curatorial and documentation colleagues. It has been a brilliant group effort to have labelled, catalogued and added 188 items to our database, 40 years after it was first put on inventory.
There have been immediate benefits. We now have two University College London Art and Science students researching the Morton collection for their final-year dissertations.
Morton’s fascinating collection of letters, fabrics and personal items, chronically his pioneering business and the colour dye industry in early twentieth-century Britain, will now be made use of for the first time since he donated them to the museum.
This forgotten Scottish dyer will finally justly be rescued from obscurity.