Wednesday, 30 July 2014

De-installing Joseph Banks, A Great Endeavour: A Lincolnshire Gentleman and His Legacy

The Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) loans objects to temporary exhibitions hosted at museums all around the world. Most recently we loaned 19 objects from Captain Cook's voyages to the Pacific. The PRM's Cook collections were collected by Joseph Banks, who was the botanist and naturalist on Cook's first voyage aboard the Endeavour, and Johann Reinhold Forster and Johann George Adam Forster, the two naturalists on Cook's second voyage aboard the ship Resolution. Banks sent objects collected on the voyage to his old Oxford college Christ ChurchThe collection was presumably housed at the college's Anatomy School, for which Banks's old undergraduate friend John Parsons had responsibility. In 1860 most of the collection was transferred on loan to the newly founded University Museum, and from there to the Pitt Rivers Collection where it arrived in the mid-1880s. 

Joseph Banks was born to William Banks, a wealthy Lincolnshire country squire. His link to Lincolnshire led to The Collection in Lincoln holding the exhibition Joseph Banks, A Great Endeavour: A Lincolnshire Gentleman and His Legacy. The exhibition included Cook collection objects alongside diary and journal entries and accounts from the time of the voyage and original drawings and paintings loaned by The British Museum, The Natural History Museum and the British Library among others. 

Objects crated up as the exhibition is taken down © Pitt Rivers Museum

Preparing to remove the fau, 1886.1.1683 from its display case © Pitt Rivers Museum

Many hours of work by collections and conservation staff go in to preparing objects for loan. To prepare objects for loan the PRM conservation team have to agree that the objects chosen are in good enough condition to travel and sometimes custom crates need to be made to accommodate the objects being loaned. Included in the 19 objects from the PRM selected for the exhibition was a large wickerwork and feather headdress called a fau (1886.1.1683) from Tahiti. The fau needed an extra large crate and display case to allow enough space in the case for the protruding tropicbird feathers. 

Staff from the collections team have to prepare loan agreements, arrange for photography of the objects being loaned and administration regarding transport and insurance. I also check that the cataloguing of the objects is up-to-date. When at the venue, the objects are condition checked by the PRM couriers before installing and deinstalling the objects from display. The exhibition proved very popular and after just over three months of display in Lincoln I went back the The Collection with Senior Conservator, Jeremy Uden to de-install the loan and return the objects to Oxford. 

Jeremy Uden, senior conservator condition checking objects 
before packing them in crates.  © Pitt Rivers Museum

PRM crates loaded into the truck for the return trip to Oxford © Pitt Rivers Museum

For more information about the Cook collections at the PRM please visit our new Cook Voyage Collections website. 

Faye Belsey
Assistant Curator

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