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Conserving a Bayko model of the Empire State Building 

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Two sections of the model assembled after treatment.

This model is made from Bayko, a plastic construction kit which was made in Liverpool in the 1930s. Bayko kits have metal rods fitted into holes in baseboards. Bricks and window frames are then slotted down between the rods to form the sides of model buildings. The rods are held together at different heights within the model by thin plastic tie-plates.

Before the model of the Empire State Building was conserved, many bricks and window frames had come out. Pieces which had fallen inside the model were recovered using simple tools such as long tweezers or a length of dowel with ‘Blu-tac’ on one end.

The model was not strongly made; there was so much movement and swaying in the bottom section that it was unsafe to display the model assembled for a long time without it collapsing. Bricks were removed to allow access to the central support of the lowest section. However, due to the overlapping of the tie-plates, many more bricks had to be removed than predicted. Three boxes made of low emission MDF were screwed to the original chip board support so there is now a rigid central core to provide strength. 

The outer bricks and other exposed pieces were cleaned using cotton wool swabs moistened with water. Occasional paint splashes were removed with alcohol. Additional plastic tie-plates were added where necessary. 

Click on the thumbnails below to see the conservation work in progress.

All of the pieces together in the warehouse before treatment. Removing bricks to gain access to the central support so that it could be reinforced. Due to the overlapping of the tying strips more bricks had to be removed than was first thought. You can see how little support this section has. Here you can see the new reinforcing core inside the model. On removal from the model, the bricks were carefully placed so they could be returned to exactly the same position. Before we had reinforced the model, there was a lot of room inside the model, but very little support. As well as having lots of missing pieces, the model was very dirty, as this photo shows. Two sections of the model, assembled after treatment. Carefully assembling the model in the Museum of Liverpool with a fork-lift truck.  

The model is made in three levels stacked on top of each other with four ‘arcades’ around the base. The total height of all three levels would be more than four metres. The conserved model is now on display in the Global City gallery| at the Museum of Liverpool. As the ceiling height in the gallery is restricted it was decided to only display the top and bottom sections. 

Museum of Liverpool collection

Accession number MLL.2005.60.2