Royal Navy's First Submarine Scoops Top Conservation Award

By David Prudames | 13 November 2002
salvaged in 1982, Holland 1 has undergone a lengthy process of conservation.

Left: salvaged in 1982, Holland 1 has undergone a lengthy process of conservation.

A project to preserve the Royal Navy's first submarine has been awarded the UK's top conservation prize.

Conservator Ian Clark and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport were presented with the Pilgrim Trust Award for Conservation 2002 at the British Library.

A 20-year process of preservation was concluded in 2001 by the opening of a purpose built gallery to house the remarkable Holland 1 submarine in Gosport.

Right: nowadays the Navy's original submarine resides in a purpose-built humidity-controlled gallery. Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

Pipping the National Trust, Wallace Collection and Museum of Science and Industry to the post, the project fulfilled the judges' criteria by using scientific, technological and historical knowledge to conserve the craft and display it to a wider audience.

"Among an outstanding 2002 shortlist this amazing submarine project stands out," enthused Loyd Grossman, chair of the judges, broadcaster and 24 Hour Museum Chairman.

"It has everything: a fascinating story, pivotal to British naval prowess; a bold conservation procedure, based on sound scientific principles and carried out on an unprecedented scale; and a stunning display which brings the visitor a memorable experience. Everyone should go and see it!"

Left: inside Holland 1, a view of the bow and torpedo tube. Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

First setting sail in 1901, Holland 1 accidentally sunk on the way to a Welsh breaker's yard in 1913, remaining at the bottom of the sea until 1982.

Cleaned, treated and put on display, the submarine was, by 1993, suffering from rampant corrosion. With repainting having no effect, the Museum built a sodium carbonate filled tank in which to enclose the vessel and remove damaging chloride.

In 1998, the tank was drained and tests revealed that the chloride was now at an acceptable level and Holland 1 could go on display again.

Right: the hatch - only one way in or out. Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

Other Awards:

  • Student Conservator of the Year: Katherine Hallett whose work at the British Museum shows dim lighting levels can be increased without harming ethnographic exhibits.
  • The Anna Plowden Award for Research and Innovation in Conservation: Dr Andrew Calver of the Museum of London and Dr Lorraine Gibson of the University of Strathclyde for the development of a technique for measuring air exchange rates in display cases and storage enclosures.
  • The Nigel Williams Prize for Ceramics and Glass Conservation: Kenneth Watt of West Dean College for his lifetime of achievement in the field.
  • More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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