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Medal Collection

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission by whom the decision was taken to remove the medal collection from their original display cases near the House of Commons Terrace and remount them in new cases; when the decision was taken; and what factors were taken into account when (a) making the decision and (b) commissioning the new cases. (96691)

Following discussions with Members of both Houses, the Serjeant at Arms, who has responsibility for the fabric of the House and is the point of contact for the medal collection, asked the Curator's Office at the start of the summer recess to undertake a redisplay of the medals. The previous display, which was mounted in 1978, was dated and poorly laid out by modern standards. Furthermore evidence of insect infestation had been identified in the display cabinets. As part of the project to refurbish the display, the medals were cleaned, conserved, and documented over the summer, and a new hanging scheme devised and implemented. The felt lining in the existing cabinets was replaced and the glass was brought up to modern museum standards. Following research, the display was reconfigured in a more logical and easily understandable way, with new text labels being provided in order to explain the history and importance of the medals. The final part of the project will include increasing the ambient light level.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what experience in the mounting and displaying of medal collections (a) the individuals who remounted the House of Commons medal collection and (b) the consulted experts had. (96692)

A wide range of specialist museum expertise was brought together by the Curatorial Office for this project. The cleaning and conservation of the medals was carried out by Rupert Harris Conservation, who specialise in metalwork conservation; the graphic design was carried out by Hyperkit; the new hanging system for the medals was designed, fabricated and installed by the Whitewall Company, who specialise in exhibition design and installation for the museum sector. Finally the research and documentation and compilation of text information was undertaken by Andrew Hanham, formerly of the History of Parliament Trust, and an expert in medals.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment has been made of the extent to which the newly mounted medals near the Terrace (a) have been displayed (i) evenly and (ii) showing their ribbons and (b) are labelled appropriately. (96693)

The initiative to refurbish the display cabinets and re-display the medals in a new and more meaningful way has been met with enthusiasm from both Houses. Once lighting has been improved, and the lettering of the text captions resolved so that they are easily read, the project will be complete. There is no proposal to increase the amount of ribbon showing beyond that already on display.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the House authorities will seek further expert curatorial advice on the display of medals near the terrace. (96694)

The House authorities have already sought expert advice. The refurbishment scheme was run by in-house professional curatorial staff, with outside museum experts engaged for each of the specialisms required. Advice was sought from the Ministry of Defence medals office and the display complies with modern museum standards, and once the final parts of the project lighting and labelling are resolved, it will allow information about this little known collection in the House to be more widely accessible.