Fettling folios

Frances Cooper our trainee conservation technician outlines how she has been preparing Shakespeare folios and playbills for exhibition.

My name is Frances Cooper and I am the Trainee Conservation Technician on the Treasures of the Brotherton Project. I am working towards the Conservation and Collections Care Diploma.  This is supported by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Institute of Conservation and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Part of my job involves preparing objects for exhibition in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.  It doesn’t seem long ago since the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery opened in February, however behind the scenes we’ve been busy planning and preparing for our next temporary exhibition.  We’re also making some object changes in our permanent exhibition.

This week I’ve been measuring books to make custom mounts for our up and coming Shakespeare in Yorkshire Exhibition, which will open on 5 September.

This exhibition contains 23 books ranging from the huge Second and Third Folios which collect all of Shakespeare’s works, to tiny volumes of individual plays. When deciding on how to display the books I have to take into account how the book opens and how it will need to be supported. It is important to get this right so that the book will sit comfortably on its mount for the duration of the exhibition.

I trace a profile of each book in the position in which it will be displayed using a sheet of Melinex polyester film and take measurements of the outside of the boards, as shown in the photograph below.  Then I send the information to the mount manufacturer.

Keeping with the theme of the theatre, I’ve also been preparing some early 19th century theatre playbills which will be going into the permanent exhibition. Objects are swapped round in the permanent exhibition according to how sensitive to light they are. Some of the most sensitive objects are changed as often as every 9 weeks, however the playbills are changed every 6 months.

The playbills needed to be cleaned before they go on display using an eraser which I grate into a fine powder.  This method of cleaning lifts the dirt from the surface without damaging the fragile paper. It can be quite time consuming but it’s very rewarding to see 200 years of dirt disappear from the surface of the paper!


Collections Update

Collections Assistant, Laura Millward, talks about her fellowship work funded by the ‘Understanding British Portrait Network’.


I am a few days into a 30 day research fellowship funded by the ‘Understanding British Portrait Network’ (http://www.britishportraits.org.uk). Although it’s still early days, I have discovered a few interesting facts relating to the University’s pastel portraits of the Leeds industrialist John Marshall (1765-1845) and his wife Jane (1771 to 1847), produced by John Russell (1745-1806) in 1802. I had read from various sources that John was born at his father’s draper’s shop at Number 1 Briggate, so one of my first visits was to the Leeds Local History Library. It was here I was able to look at early insurance maps of the city centre, which included the street numbers and I discovered that Number 1 Briggate is now The Cosmopolitan Hotel. I have spent time looking through the Marshall business papers held in the University’s Special Collections and through chatting with colleagues in Special Collections, I have met other researchers of the Marshalls, including Rebecca Bowd and Dr Barbara Hahn. Rebecca told me about the remains of John Marshall’s first mill in Adel which I am planning on visiting.

Last week I visited the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum where I viewed the journals of John Russell. John Russell toured Yorkshire between 1790 and 1806, so I was hoping he had made a few notes on his encounter with the Marshalls; unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Russell did mention the Leeds surgeon Dr William Hey, who he stayed with in Woodhouse. I would assume the Marshalls were part of the same social circle as Hey in Leeds and were introduce to the artist via Hey or quite possibly another Leeds mill owner Richard Paley, whose portrait by Russell (produced same year as Marshalls) is held at Leeds Art Gallery, although further research is required.

John Russell was born in Guildford and the Guildford Museum has the largest collection of portraits by the artist. The Assistant Curator, Andrew Longworth, very kindly showed me many of the portraits which were in the museum’s store and the files related to them. The museum also has pastels and an easel which were owned by John Russell, which were fascinating to see. The following day I visited the Heinz Archive at the National Portrait Gallery where I was able to view various files and articles relating to Russell’s portraits and staff had made it possible for me to view another pair of companion portraits and a self-portrait of John Russell.

Come to the Gallery in mid-July, when a new interpretation panel and visitor leaflet relating to the portraits will be available. The research project is also linked to the University of Leeds Public Art Project with events and contemporary art installations at the Gallery and on campus, celebrating Yorkshire’s textile heritage.


Exploring the Literary Gothic in Special Collections

From Jane Eyre to Dorian Gray: shedding light on the development of Gothic fiction, from its early nineteenth century origins to the present day.

Special Collections is launching new digital resources introducing key texts and writers in the Literary Gothic tradition.

The resources use books and manuscripts held in the Special Collections department of Leeds University Library. They were created jointly with Lucy Arnold, a doctoral student in the School of English at the University.

The introductions to significant Gothic texts were written by academic specialists at Leeds. They are illustrated with related images from Special Collections holdings. The resources also contain suggested further reading for beginners and specialists alike.

The introduction to the Literary Gothic is spread over two separate digital resources:

Literary Gothic in Special Collections
This resource focuses on introducing a range of fascinating texts.  It relates primary sources and research material in Special Collections.

The Literary Gothic: From Walpole to Lovecraft
This is an expanded resource, introducing a wider selection of texts which are not linked to Special Collections holdings.