Norfolk Collections Centre – Deep Clean

November 2015

The Norfolk Collections Centre covers an area a little over 800m2 and provides us with approximately 3,645m3 of storage space. We store a vast array of different objects meaning the job of collections care is no simple task. To help meet the collections care needs of these objects, we have launched an annual deep clean, the first of which took place over five days in September.

We started where the need was greatest, the roller racking in Store 1. This predominantly houses large social history objects from the Museum of Norwich’s collection. We were fortunate to secure the assistance of Norfolk Museum Service’s Teaching Museum trainees who made up the bulk of our workforce. In turn the deep clean was set up as a training exercise which enabled participants to learn new skills and gain additional knowledge.


Roller-racking in store 1

As each pallet load was brought down from the roller racking, the objects were condition assessed. Issues such as cleaning, repackaging, identification of surface dirt and pests and current suitability for pallet storage were addressed. In addition, everyone was made aware of the potential presence of hazardous materials in collections, such as asbestos or mercury.

Layers of dirt and dust, as well as being disfiguring, attract moisture and can encourage pest attack. Dust and dirt can also be abrasive and even acidic and can contribute to corrosion on metal surfaces. The longer it is allowed to remain on objects, the more bound to the surfaces and difficult to remove it can become. So careful cleaning of objects and even each pallet, is an important process of collections care.

Brushes and museum vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters were employed to remove the loose surface dust and debris. Where the dirt was more ingrained and needed a bit more persuasion, different grade brushes and/or use of aqueous or solvent cleaning were used. A conservator was on hand to evaluate and advise. The aim was not to clean objects up to display standard, but to remove the worst of the loose material and to take the opportunity to check for condition and deterioration.


Teaching museum trainees; Morgan and Lawrence object cleaning letters from the main sign at the now defunct ‘Youngs Crayshay and Young’ brewery. 

Repacking some of the larger objects of irregular shape required some careful thought, and we had to be sure that each object was buffered to prevent abrasion and damage. When required, a packaging strapping machine was used to secure the base of more robust, heavy objects to their pallets. This is especially important when moving these larger objects, sometimes at height with a forklift.

By the end of the five days we had processed 40 loads (pallets) and cleaned over 200 individual objects. In addition documentation was improved— each object now has a photograph attached to its object record along with an accurate location.

This first deep clean was an incredibly valuable exercise enabling us to make a significant improvement to the long-term care of the collections. Its success is due to the hard work and enthusiasm of everybody involved. So a big thank you to all those that helped.

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