New William Blake Exhibition Installation – Behind the scenes

Published on behalf of Sarah Graham Conservation Exhibitions Intern

Europe: A Prophecy by William Blake is a particularly special item in Special Collections and is currently on loan to the Ashmolean Museum. A total of 27 items from the Hunterian Art Gallery and Special Collections are included in the exhibition ‘William Blake: Apprentice and Master’ which opens on the 4th December 2014.

Europe had previously been disbound from its book format and is now stored in its individual mounts. As one of only 6 extant copies from the original 1794 print of Europe, it is of significant interest and the mounts prevent the leaves being disturbed when framed for exhibition. The condition survey was carried out in the beginning of October, the mounts were cleaned and a minor repair was made. More information is available about Europe in Bob Maclean’s Book of the month article.

A second illuminated book from Special Collections and a variety of engravings, mezzotints, woodcuts and prints from the Hunterian were wrapped, put in crates and driven down to the Ashmolean in a specialist van. The opened crate photographed below has plate 17 from Europe and 17 woodcuts from the Hunterian. As both institutions in the University of Glasgow were contributing to the exhibition, combining transport and courier was logical.

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They arrived safely at the Ashmolean Museum where they were removed from their travelling cases and had their condition checked by conservation staff. The technicians then installed the frames on the wall, making it look surprising easy to hang them all exactly in line.

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The prints are painted with watercolour which is particularly sensitive to light. Adjusting the lights however, can only be done once the works have been installed. Unfortunately the lighting from the previous exhibition was creating pools of light on some of the Europe plates. Therefore, until the lighting was corrected, tissue covers were placed on the affected plates to filter the light. After the lighting was set, all readings were under 50 Lux.

We hope they enjoy their holiday and look forward to seeing them again at the de-installation in March.

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Categories: Special Collections

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