Due to uncertainty around changing COVID regulations and the potential impact of sickness within our teams; NMRN may be required to adjust opening hours or close sites at short notice. Whilst all efforts will be made to avoid this and to contact ticket holders ahead of visits we do ask you to check our Facebook and Twitter accounts for details of closures. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding. 

Pre-booking is advised, and visitors must wear masks for their safety and the safety of others, unless exempt.

HMS Caroline remains temporarily closed. Find The Latest COVID-19 Updates Here.


The Royal Navy Submarine Museum Torbay Decant | Part Two

Part Two of the Torbay Move

In part one Ed explained the first stage of moving collections from the Torbay store at Royal Navy Submarine Museum to the new facility at Storehouse 12 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

When we left him the quarantine store was full and the team managed to take a short well deserved break before the next stage.

Before reading Part Two, you might want to read Part One to find out what's happened so far.

Making Space

After the first move the quarantine store in Storehouse 12 was more or less full. This meant we had four weeks in which to clear enough space to receive the remainder of the objects, the uniform, and the archive.

The uniform was consolidated onto eight rails, and we were able to use the unfurnished (thanks to Covid delaying that work) photographic studio as a temporary space to store it.

Our plan was to move as much of the archive as possible on cages, that way we wouldn’t need to clear as much space as it could just stay on the cages, it would be easier for the move itself, and if we needed to we could still move it easily when it was in the quarantine store.

With the archive on cages the ideal scenario would have been to leave it all at the back of the quarantine store so that we didn’t have to keep moving it. The cages themselves fill several aisles completely so, ideally, we needed to try and empty all the shelves they would block in.

New Store System

Storehouse 12 has a barcoded location system, all the shelves, boxes, and objects are individually barcoded, that way it’s quick and easy to track or move an object with a few scans.

Setting up the system, however, takes a bit longer; most of the objects from Torbay have individual barcodes (the head-start on documentation I mentioned earlier). But, only a small number of objects are scanned into their boxes, so the documentation part of the process is to set up the remaining barcoded elements of that system, and make sure everything is scanned into or onto the correct thing.

While doing this each object is condition checked, and the boxes checked for any pests; if an object is found to be mouldy or has pest activity it is frozen and then cleaned.

As we are loading objects and boxes onto shelves there is a weight limit to factor in, and every object is weighed unless it is in a box in which case the entire box is weighed so that we can make sure no shelf is overloaded.

Once all those tasks are completed the object or box is ready to move from the quarantine store to its permanent home in the object store.

Consolidation and Priorities

We got straight back into it when we returned, we consolidated the library and photographic collections so they were gathered together by category, and packed more efficiently on the shelves. With these set to one side we turned our attention to areas that would free up the most space.


There were several shelves at the back of the store filled with very large boxes that had models in, and this stood out as a good place to start, and gain a lot of space in the process.

Freeing up space was the objective and once the models were free of the boxes, there was a lot more room to manoeuvre.

Model ships aren't the only thing we had to pack up either!

Uniforms and Freezing

While working on the models wealso tried to highlight objects such as boxed uniform that could be put in the freezer. Once items were frozen, defrosted, cleaned, and documented, they could go straight into the object store.

We did a couple of freezer loads like this but, each took a week which really slowed down the process of clearing space. To meet the deadline we knew we'd need to move our schedule around and freeze the rest of the uniforms at a later date.

The Photographic Collections 

We had been waiting for some snagging to be completed on one of the new store rooms before we could use it.

Once this was completed, we built some racking in there and moved all the glass plate negatives, negatives, and slides, into here for temporary storage.

These collections had been on cages, and one of our targets was to free up as many cages as possible so that we could use them for the archive in the next move.

It was a busy four weeks, but we managed to clear most of the space we wanted to clear in time for the second move on the 9 and 10 December 2020.

The Second Collections Move

It was a busy four weeks but we managed to create enough space and clear most of the room we wanted to clear in time for the second move on the 9 and 10 December 2020.

The second move started at a nice pace, the first day we focussed on the uniforms because it filled a whole lorry. When this was moved across the contractors then loaded up the lorry with empty cages to bring over to Torbay so that we could load the archives onto them the following day.

The day we moved the archive was a lot more hectic. On the Monday we had moved eight uniform rails. Then on Tuesday we moved over 1000 archive boxes and had to try and keep them in order as best we could. 

The rest of the team were working on the archive overflow store (mostly a store full of intake that is being processed but is not formally in the collection yet), and then they were working on the office spaces packing the collections and reference documentation that needed to come over as well. We managed to fit all of this into both vehicles after a very intense loading process and made our way to the dockyard.

In contrast to the first move in my first blog, this time there were designated spaces for everything we unpacked. While the team checked things off the vehicles I was directing in the quarantine store, filling the newly emptied shelves first, and then blocking everything in with the cages.

And, just like that the 2020 Christmas break was upon us and our final task was taking the last batch of uniforms out of the freezer. What a productive few months it had been, and a relief we could have a restful Christmas holiday knowing the collection had been safely moved to a much better environment.

Future Projects

As you can see just from Ed's description, an awful lot of effort goes into the care for the collection. This move was essential for the preservation of the collections, and spared them from a winter spent in a facility that could have damaged their integrity. 

At The National Museum of the Royal Navy we are undertaking projects like this all the time so these important collections and artefacts are presevered for future generations to enjoy. We'll be sharing more of this journey, and the details of what goes on behind the scenes in more blogs moving forward. Keep an eye out on our website and social channels to see when these stories are released.

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