Our Assistant Conservation Officer, Eugenie Karen, gives an update on plans for our new exhibition. Preparations for the fifth changing exhibition in the Treasures Gallery are well underway. ‘Rights and Romance: Representing Gypsy Lives’ showcases items from our Gypsy, Traveller and Roma collections. It will open on 1 March.
Exhibition planning requires extensive teamwork and cooperation. Given that this is now our fifth outing, our systems are running in a near well-oiled fashion. However similar the processes are though, each show stands alone because the material going on display brings its own challenges.
As a conservator, I am tasked with assessing whether the objects are suitable to be put on display. I am then required to ensure that each item receives what is in effect a care plan. I need to ensure the object is as comfortable as possible for the duration of its exposure. After the initial assessment and the green light is given, I decide what the object needs in terms of light levels, temperature and support.
Supports are not there to be seen. We try to ensure that the object is showcased to its best advantage, but if you ever visit an exhibition and see a person contorting themselves to examine something behind the object, they are probably a visiting conservator getting inspiration. Sometimes we make the supports in house, using polyester film, acrylic supports, foam, box board or simply paper or mount board.
Sometimes an object demands more to show it to its full advantage. Included in the upcoming exhibition are two flowers crafted from wood shavings. They are incredibly delicate and brittle. There are not many objects in this exhibition so we decided that these two items ought to achieve an extra prominence by getting bespoke mounts made.
It was felt that such fragile items ought to ‘float’ and I called upon the expertise of Jon Baxter, a local mount maker. We devised a design whereby a clear Perspex mount would cradle the heavier ‘head’ of the flower counterbalanced by a hole through which the stem would slot which raises the whole thing above the surface of the case.
We won’t know how fully we have achieved our aim until we begin installation in February but I am confident they will look beautiful.