Dismantling and packing a very large diorama for the University of Cambridge Zoology Museum.

Nigel Larkin and Phil Rye were asked by the University of Cambridge Zoology Museum to record, dismantle and pack-up for temporary storage this beautiful but large diorama showing birdlife on a seashore. It was in four very large pieces, each approximately 3 metres long by about 1.5 metres wide, varying in height between approximately 28 and 50cm. They are cunningly made from hardboard and fibreboard, with paper mache and resin on a wooden base frame. The birds are made from painted paper and paper mache and the beaches are made from real pebbles. Some birds are wired to the diorama and some were hanging from the ceiling above (the position of these had to be recorded). The four diorama pieces attached together along their adjoining sides with four long horizontal metal rods inserting perpendicularly into holes in the wooden bases in each case.

Old damage was recorded and cleaning tasks assessed so that time and funding could be set aside for when the diorama gets re-instated after the museum’s redevelopment. Simply accessing the diorama sections and removing them from their display case was quite a challenge, but nothing compared to making a suitable crate to store them in safely for the next year whilst the museum became a building site. The crate had to be incredibly sturdy to offer the maximum amount of protection whilst allowing access so that the heavy yet fragile diorama sections could be stored one above another. The whole crate had to be on suitable wheels so it could be moved out of the way as and when work needed to be undertaken on site. In the end, the crate and its contents weighed about half a ton but can still be moved by a single person – just.

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