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Panacea Society

Panacea Society


Conservation storage, equipment and display specialist Conservation By Design (CXD) has supplied an array of bespoke showcases to a new museum dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of the Panacea Society, a religious community who believed that they would establish the Kingdom of God on Earth.

The Panacea Museum in Bedford opened its doors in November 2012 in order to tell the story of the Panacea Society, now known as the Panacea Charitable Trust. The organisation became well-known across the UK for many years because of 'The Box' - a box of prophecies left by Joanna Southcott only to be opened at a time of national danger by the 24 bishops of the Church of England. Southcott was one of a chain of modern prophets whose writings inspired the Society members.

During the intensive restoration of the collection of Victorian buildings which house the museum, CXD supplied 13 bespoke showcases to protect an eclectic mix of historic books, images, manuscripts, and clothing which explain the beliefs and lifestyle of the Society members as well as the earlier prophets.

On gathering the items for display, Lucinda Middleton, Curator of the museum, said: "The paper archive was well ordered and easy to work through. However a vast array of furniture and objects were hidden away in the depths of the buildings. These objects were packed in boxes with little or no explanation, so there were many surprises over the months when gathering items and piecing the jigsaw together to create the interesting collection on view today."

With some of the artefacts on display dating back as far as 1795, it was crucial they received conservation standard protection to avoid damage from both heat and light. Display drawers were incorporated in many of the showcases to protect the objects from both harmful artificial lighting and sunlight, while sensitive fibre optic lighting was installed in others to provide optimum levels of light without any harmful UV emissions.

"The drawers mean the objects are protected from the light when they arent being viewed," explains Lucinda. "They allow the visitor to investigate objects, books and papers that might otherwise not have been on display because of space restrictions.

 "The team at CXD were very helpful, particularly during the showcase design process. They understood the constraints of moving showcases around a Victorian building, which itself forms part of the Panacea story, while the high specification of the showcases met the needs of the collection."

 CXD provided a mixture of free standing showcases and table showcases. One unit needed to be constructed on site to enable a large cradle to be exhibited. The cradle, dating back to 1814 and on permanent loan from Salford Museum and Art Gallery, is now successfully displayed in the large showcase despite being in a small room.

 Kevin Boughen, of Conservation by Design, said: "As experts in conservation displays and storage, we were aware of potential installation problems due to the size of the showcases and the type of building they were going in. But the solution was simple - we suggested making the tall showcases shorter than originally planned and constructing one on site in the museum prevented any issues and made for a simple process.

 "The bespoke nature of the display cases means they are perfect to show the diverse range of items in The Panacea Museum for all to enjoy. Visitors can also learn about the history of the Society through this collection, which will now be conserved and protected for years to come."

 For more information and a detailed specification on the range of products Conservation By Design offers, call 01234 846 300 .

Installation Photography