They say moving house is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do…



September 20, 2014

…If that’s the case then we’ve certainly been ambitious with our Small Stories exhibition, which involves moving 12 houses not just around the Museum but around the world for an international tour!

But aren’t dolls’ houses much smaller and less complicated to move than the contents of a real home? How hard can it be?

Sarah Wood, co-curator of the exhibition, explains: “Having worked on the Small Stories exhibition of 12 houses for over 2 years, I can confirm that we have undertaken monumental not diminutive amounts of work which have taken planning to new levels. We have been valiantly supported by an excellent team of colleagues who have been vital in making everything happen safely. Particular thanks go out to those in conservation departments.

There are 12 houses in the exhibition and they range in date from 1712 to 2001. Plus, there are 1,907 things from inside the houses – which makes a fairly sizable inventory in the first place.

These are all museum objects, so need special and careful handling – gloves on! They are some of the museum’s best known objects, and perhaps the most complicated to store, display, keep safe and move about. The houses themselves are the biggest things in our collection, but the accessories are the smallest.”

 

Planning the move
Conservation work takes place at the V&A in South Kensington. Just transporting everything across London is a major undertaking – each tiny object was given a unique number and photographed, then packed according to the room and the house that it has come from. Then all the objects were divided by material for conservation treatments, into wood, paper, glass, ceramic, textiles, and so on. Once conservation work has been completed on a house and its contents, each part has a bespoke box made to help protect and support it while in transit.

Contents of two houses temporarily packed to travel to South Kensington.
Contents of two houses temporarily packed to travel to South Kensington.
Even the attached parts of the houses, including curtain rails, need to be labelled and recorded.
Even the attached parts of the houses, including curtain rails, need to be labelled and recorded.
Character from Betty Pinney's house in his custom-made box.
Character from Betty Pinney’s house in his custom-made box.
Packing objects into their bespoke touring boxes.
Packing objects into their bespoke touring boxes.

Planning the display
We also had to decide on an exact location for everything in each room. This will make installation at different venues consistent and efficient. We have also done trial runs, putting the furniture in the houses to ensure that we’ll have enough time to complete everything and that each one of the 1907 objects within the 12 homes stays firmly in the right place.

Testing the layout of the dressing table in the Killer Cabinet bedroom.
Testing the layout of the dressing table in the Killer Cabinet bedroom.
Full room layout of the Killer Cabinet bedroom.
Full room layout of the Killer Cabinet bedroom.
Trial run installing the contents of the Killer Cabinet.
Trial run installing the contents of the Killer Cabinet.

 

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Comments

I agree with moving being very stressful, at least the first time. For me it was a disaster. If you change your mindset and think of it as the continuing of the adventure that is life it’s a different thing. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to be prepared. Plan everything with months if possible and keep it cool while gathering all the helpful information and tips that you can get. The article here is really inspiring I very much enjoyed reading your post! <3

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