STORAX Preserves England’s History Artefacts

Storax Preserves England’s Historical Artifacts.
NEWS & MEDIA | 31 January 2018

STORAX Preserves England’s History Artefacts

A few years ago, English Heritage, which looks after England’s historical artefacts, had run out of storage space. 200 pallets holding stone work from Hadrian’s wall were lying in an unmanned cow shed in Mafen and 15 pallets from the Tynmouth Priory were being stored in a WW2 gun emplacement on the North Sea coast. As English Heritage had a 1993 custom built storage facility in Hemsley, Yorkshire, it was decided to increase the storage capacity there as cost effectively as possible.

Once the decision had been made in 2008 to install Storax mobile racking, the curator of the Hemsley store, Susan Harrison, had to decide the maximum weight of each pallet, a standard pallet size and where in the store each pallet should be placed. In the end, pallets were assigned different coloured markers depending on weight and stored accordingly. Some items including bone fragments, metalwork and ceramics needed to be stored in a humidity free micro climate which was achieved by using plastic boxes and silicon gel. As the relative humidity could vary rapidly near the ceiling of the store, items which could be negatively affected, ie those made of wood, were stored on the lower levels.  During the installation of the mobiles, the artefacts already in the store were moved to a neighbouring building. In order to prevent the creation of dust, an overlay slab was laid which included ramps to allow forklift access and a wide moving aisle was created so as to allow the existing counterbalanced machine sufficient space to do a 90 degree turn.

 

Storax mobiles full of antiquities in the Hemsley store
Storax mobiles full of antiquities in the Hemsley store

Susan drives the forklift herself and chuckled that her productivity was rather low “you see,” she said, “we must prevent damage at all costs, so I take my time moving pallets into and out of the Storax  system.” With over 800 pallets stored the mobiles are now full, but it is still possible to retrieve any pallet quickly whenever it is required for study.  Previously, it was necessary to move other pallets first, which made the retrieval process slower and increased the risk of damage.  While Susan is delighted with how the mobiles have increased storage capacity and improved access, tests are still ongoing regarding humidity levels, and on the possible movement of the wooden pallets on  the rack beams.

 

 

As insects can cause damage, traps have been put down to detect them early. Being able to sweep the entire floor quickly and easily assists in their early detection. Under the current risk assessment, the base motors are left uncovered so to be accessible in case of a motor failure. Susan was also in the process of implementing a stock location system for the store.

 

Storax Preserves England’s Historical Artifacts.
Storax’s Martin Levitt and Susan Harrison next to the facility’s counterbalanced forklift.

As the store holds Roman, early Saxon and medieval artefacts, each pallet holds an invaluable history of these periods. Between Roman memorial stones, Susan pointed out an effigy of Henry Percy, the first lord of Alnwick, who lived in the 13th Century and pointed out how some masonry from the nearby Rievaulx  priory  still showed remnants of the medieval paint. One Arch head from Fountains Abbey, popularly known as “ET” seemed to show the head of a baboon. Investigations suggested that the image would have been taken from a bestiary or book of beasts, some real and some imagined, which would have been one of the prized possessions of any religious house.

 

Susan’s prize exhibit was a bronze age axe head which had been found near a smelter in Cheshire. In mint condition, this axe head had been made as part of an experiment to see what combination of copper and tin was best suited for it’s intended purpose. When one considers that it had been made some 3800 years ago,  the skill and precision displayed makes one realise that although our ancestors did not have mobile racking, they were far more advanced than was previously thought.

 

Storax Preserves England’s Historical Artifacts.
Bronze age axe head. Note the cavity at the back where the specially shaped wooden shaft would have been inserted, and the eye hole on the bottom side to hold the leather bindings.

 

We recently received an update on the store from Paul Horton, Project Engineer at Storax Limited, ” The new building has been built to store historically important items like furniture, fireplaces, doors, even coffins in a safe, controlled environment. All items of unusual sizes.

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They opted for a mobile racking system to give them easy access but maximise storage, with over 300 storage locations over 4 mobile bases, a hand powered mobile shelving system for small item and document storage, some APR locations and a bespoke historic carpet storage system to allow them to store 30 carpets and rugs up to 4 metres in length safely and allow access to them without the need to move other items.

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