How Do You Build a Museum?
So how exactly do you build a museum? Project Administrator Anna Keast finds out from our Site Manager, Kent Taylor…
Just over a year ago, work started to transform Calthorpe House – former factory, office building and construction base – into a new home for The Postal Museum.
Now that construction is in its final months, and the team are readying the building for exhibitions work to start, I spoke to Site Manager Kent Taylor who told me how things are progressing.
What are the main challenges involved in this project?
It’s not easy to transform an old, worn-out building into a new, comfortable and exciting place to visit and work. We’ve had to demolish a considerable amount of structural walls and floors but before we could, careful planning and design was needed to ensure we could temporarily support the structure whilst we demolished. We’ve also installed permanent support (often in logistically-challenging locations) where old walls previously stood.
What makes The Postal Museum a unique construction project?
One of the greatest benefits of working in the construction industry is that no project is the same so you’re always exposed to new challenges. I’ve previously worked on both refurbishments and new builds in different sectors – hospitals, pathology, education, airport and residential construction. However, The Postal Museum is quite different – it’s very uncommon for one project to include a combination of refurbishment, new build and reopening an underground railway!
From a construction point of view, The Postal Museum is quite unique because it has a little bit of everything. The demolition and refurbishment of Calthorpe House has seen us replacing fragile floors with new suspended concrete slabs, creating new stair cores within the building, knocking down structural walls to suit the new museum layout, replacing the old roof and creating additional floor space by infilling what was once ‘thin air’.
The new-build component of Calthorpe House also isn’t your typical construction project. The building standards which we must meet to ensure the archive is constructed properly are strict – there aren’t too many new builds which require two separate roofs sat on top of each other (just in case, in the very remote chance, the first roof leaks).
We also need to ensure the environmental conditions within the archive meet the archive specification so we’re encapsulating the archive in a vapour-proof barrier, providing 4hr fire-resistant construction and making sure we allow enough time for the concrete to dry out before the Museum’s collection is ready to be relocated.
What work has been carried out so far, and what’s next?
We’ve almost finished the structural alteration works and are now ‘fitting out’ the building –mechanical and electrical services are being installed, new walls are being built and painting is well underway. In the coming weeks, we’ll be installing the tracks for the new archive racking system, building the new stair case and preparing for the commencement of the exhibition fit-out.
How do you feel about the new Postal Museum and Mail Rail opening?
I’ve always been fascinated with disused spaces and I think it’s great that The Postal Museum will be able to bring Calthorpe House and Mail Rail back to life. The museum space will be a great place to learn about the 500 years of postal history, and as for Mail Rail, I can’t wait to sit on the train and travel back in time to when Mail Rail was in its prime!
Find out more about exactly what The Postal Museum and Mail Rail will offer on our Attractions page!