Exhibiting Ingenuity: Design and Construction

Stephen Perry and his design team at the Hunterian Art Gallery (Andy Jackson, Chris Maclure and Mike Richardson) have created an exciting exhibition which is sensitive to the preservation requirements of 500 year old books. These include; secure, sealed spaces, low lighting and a stable temperature and relative humidity. The book as a 3D structure also provides design limitations as the weight of the volume has to be equally spread and well supported. Some are very large, heavy objects (almost 11kg) whilst other are much smaller with text that is much harder to read.

DB 1

There was a reluctance to use cases as they form rows of books which visitors have to group around and peer into. Instead, glass panels have been brought forward and positioned in a line in front of the wall. This creates a recess in which the books can be housed safely for the four month display period. The exhibition layout has been planned with a great level of precision ensuring equal spacing between the books and avoiding joins in the glass. Stephen thought that dispersed low level light throughout the gallery ‘would look like a dismal bedsit’. So individual LED lights have been hung directly above each book which do not emit UV light or heat. Light is kept to a minimum in the general gallery space to contrast with the LED spotlights and make the books appear brighter.

DB 2+3The plinths were made from wood in the gallery workshop and tested to make sure they would comfortably manage the weight of the larger books. Many of the smaller books are on higher wall mounts which brings them closer to eye level and easier to see. The plinths have been brought forward near the glass for the same reasons of visibility, especially reading the caption. Their spacing was measured with red light beams so the plinth would sit directly under the LED fittings.

DB 4The red and blue colour theme running through the design, particularly with the carpet and supports, was inspired by the rubrication and annotations in the books and manuscripts themselves.

DB 5The different elements involved in constructing this exhibition were assembled individually and were coordinated to arrive in the gallery space for installation week. Custom made cradles by Richard West were mounted onto the plinths and wall supports. The books were then secured with polyethylene straps and magnets covered in Japanese paper. Lighting was adjusted as the installation was taking place so the books would have the appropriate exposure to light as soon as possible.

We hope you are able to visit the exhibition and enjoy the display!

Further blogs on the exhibition, printing workshops, illuminations in the exhibition, making illuminations, cradles and conservation to follow.

Categories: Special Collections

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4 replies


  1. Exhibiting Ingenuity: Printing Workshops | University of Glasgow Library
  2. Exhibiting Ingenuity: Installation Introduction | University of Glasgow Library
  3. Exhibiting Ingenuity: Conservation | University of Glasgow Library
  4. Ingenious Impressions: The Coming of the Book | Conservation Conversations

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