Search results for: Max Gill

Westhampnett Church War Memorial

Westhampnett Church War Memorial, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Westhampnett Church WW1/WW2 memorial lettering designs. The artwork is for the First World War and the addition for the Second World War.

The Macdonald Gill exhibition team have been busy going through all of the items that are to be displayed in the cases within the exhibition. There will be ten display cases in total to be placed within the gallery as well as one outside in the main foyer of the University’s Faculty of Arts entrance. These cases will hold a total of around 180 items from flat paper-based pieces to a selection of Max’s tools and his beautiful large format camera.

Westhampnett Church War Memorial, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
The bottom left corner area of the piece with the archival tape attaching the original artwork onto the mount board and the original piece of black tape holding together the two separate pieces of paper along the edge

One of the pieces that has caused a bit of a last minute change was due to go into case number seven within the gallery. This is an original piece of artwork for the Westhampnett Church First and Second World War memorial lettering designs. The top half section of the artwork is for the First World War memorial with an addition for the Second World War attached to the bottom. The dimensions of this piece are 305x365mm and it has been window-mounted on archival board sized 510x625mm. Due to the large size of the mount board, it was decided the object was too large to go into the case as it is.

Westhampnett Church War Memorial, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Lifting the WW2 section of the piece

The private owner of this particular piece has informed me that detaching the original sketch from its mount board would be OK with her. This prompted me to have a closer look at the object – it has been mounted onto the archival mount board with the use of archival tape in all four corners. As you can see from the image above, the original item itself is created from two separate pieces of paper. These are only attached together by a small (non-archival) piece of black tape running along the left side edge near the middle of the piece where the two sides meet.

The paper is not only very soft, but also torn and damaged. This is especially evident along the edges of the black tape attaching the two sides of the artwork. Because this is the only adhering element between the two pieces, I questioned how safe or sensible it would be to remove the original from its backing board to be placed in the display case for exhibiting purposes. The archival tape pieces holding the original to the backing board are very solid and tacky, so the removal of these would have also required some careful conservation work. It seemed to me unnecessary to remove this object from its professionally and safely finished window mount.

Westhampnett Church War Memorial, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
The original tape attaching the WW1 and WW2 sections together

After some deliberation, we have decided that we will replace the original by using a facsimile of it in the exhibition case. This of course meant I was to digitise the original piece. Due to its large size of the mount board however, the digitising needed to be done in two sections – our scanner here in the Design Archives was not big enough to enable a ‘continuos scan’. I carefully attached the two digitised halves together in Photoshop, making sure not to lose any of the information within the piece in the process. The file has been taken to the printers and this facsimile will be sitting in case number seven in due course!

Westhampnett Church War Memorial, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Digitised Westhampnett Church WW1/WW2 memorial lettering designs. Here you can clearly see the difference in the shade of the paper between the two halves.

Catch of the day

Bug trap, conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen

I was doing a check of the bug traps I had placed around the Archives today and found this ‘catch of the day’. It’s a somewhat unpleasant discovery first thing in the morning but it’s good to observe that the traps are doing what they are meant to be doing.

On the Max Gill front, things are moving ahead at a quick pace – there’s only a few weeks left until the symposium and the exhibition opening. We have one last poster to take up to the conservation studio – this is a rather last minute addition so I thought I would write about how we have gotten to this point.

The object in question is Max’s ‘Highways of Empire’ poster from 1927. The original plan was to use a version of this poster attached to a piece of plywood approximately 8mm thick. Prior to this piece arriving in our store, a conservator had attempted to remove the poster from the plywood but this procedure was abandoned due to the fragile nature of the paper. Potentially, the plywood could be removed by chipping away the wood from the reverse, layer by layer. Backing removal is usually done in this manner, but I am not entirely sure how effective this method might be when the backing in question is plywood. If anyone reading has any experience in this, I would really appreciate you letting me know how you got on! Either way, as you can imagine, due to the size of the piece (1525x1020mm), removing the plywood in this manner would be a very long, laburous and costly procedure and with the time limits we are now working with, is most definitely not an option.

Conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
The state of the bent plywood the Highways of Empire poster is on as stored on the premises

Myself and the rest of the exhibition team tried to come up with a way the plywood piece could be hung safely – this could possibly have been done by inserting blocks to the back of the piece and attaching it to the wall this way. However, this immediately raised several concerns. The safety of the surface of the print was the main concern – as the plywood the poster is on is very bent, ‘framing’ it under glass would be impossible without creating a ‘glass box’ for it, and this would have obviously created cost and safety concerns. The plywood is also in a rather brittle state, so attempting to place blocks on it could have been potentially disasterous. The aesthetics of the whole exhibition also needed to be taken into consideration, as all other objects will be uniformally framed and are flat in nature. After considering all the options, the idea of using this particular piece in the exhibition was quickly scrapped.

Conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
One of many cracks on the supporting, brittle plywood the poster is attached to

The image itself was still required for the exhibition and we have sourced an alternative from the archive where a lot of the work in the exhibition has come from. This version is slightly different in that the text panel running along the bottom of the print is not the same. Thankfully the dimensions remain roughly the same – this came as a great relief for the team as the object will still fit onto the wall-space allocated to it.

As the version of the poster that will be used is rolled up inside a tube, it will need to be taken into the conservation studio for a surface clean and flattening procedures. I have unrolled the item once to have a quick look at its condition, which is very good. It is interesting to observe that the original colours of this particular piece are not as vibrant and lively as a lot of the other work I have been dealing with and I wonder why Max would have made a decision to use more subtle colours in this instance. Organising a suitable date for the necessary work to take place within the time restrictions we are all now working with has been no mean feat, but everything has worked out very smoothly and we have found a date for next week. After the conservation, the poster will be rushed off to the framers and framed in the same manner the other larger format pieces.

It’s a close call but with a bit of good old-fashioned team work, it does look like we are getting it all done on time.


Bookworm. The first image that probably comes to mind would be people that have been nicknamed ‘bookworms’ for spending days reading entire libraries of materials. Instead I am talking about beetle larvae, nicknamed bookworms, that can cause havoc on anything paper based in libraries and archives. As their name suggests, they are especially fond of the glues used in the bindings and spines of books.

Bookworm, conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
A spine and bindings of a book effected by bookworm damage

Bookworms love an environment that has high relative humidity. There are several types of worms found but they are generally about 0.1 to 0.2 inches in length. An infestation can be difficult to get rid of and is usually detected when some damage to the materials has already occured. This is due to the fact that if a library for example is not used on a regular basis, the bugs can easily go undetected inside the books.

Bookworm droppings, conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Bookworm droppings that came out by gently tapping a book spine that had been effected by the larvae

Once detected, but if live larvae is not present, the affected areas need a very thorough cleaning. Individual items should also be thoroughly cleaned by using a museum vacuum. Since bookworms love a damp environment, the objects should then be aired. The most efficient way of thoroughly drying them would probably be to freeze the affected books individually in vacuum bags after cleaning. And as with any other conservation process, it really pays to be patient and treat a book at a time.

When live larvae is present, the objects and areas affected should of course also be very thoroughly cleaned. There are some methods suggested on the web and in conservation literature in regards to how live larvae and eggs should be treated. I don’t personally have experience in this. A single book can, for example, be treated by putting it in an air-tight container/box surrounded by cotton wool soaked in ether. Treatments should be repeated every few weeks to make sure the eggs are also killed. The eggs are usually present at the edges of the cover on the spine and the hatched larvae usually tunnels up the spine and makes its way directly under the cover of the book. The damage caused is normally visible as small holes on the spine or pages of the book.

Bookworm, conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Spine and bindings after a thorough cleaning with a museum vacuum

Also, to clarify – although the inserted images are taken by me, they are not taken of books stored at the Design Archives or in the Max Gill collection of objects for the forthcoming exhibition.


Wonderground, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Front cover of the folded ‘Wonderground of London Town’ map, Max Gill, 1914

I have been working my way through digitising Gill’s ‘Wonderground Map of Londontown’ from 1914. This is a very large piece of work that is going to be displayed at the exhibition folded up in a case as this is how the map has originally been intended to be stored.

Wonderground, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
‘Wonderground Map of Londontown’, Max Gill, 1914. Unfolded.

The item is formed of 16 individual pieces of paper approximately the size of a standard A4 sheet. These have been adhered to a linen backing that is very flexible but when viewed laid out, leaves small gaps between the ‘folds’. The intention of scanning this piece is to be able to put the poster ‘back together’ digitally after scanning each of the pieces individually. This would then create a full digital file constructed from the pieces that will look as seamless as possible.

I should also mention that the item itself is in an incredibly good condition – apart from a tear on the back cover. The colours are so vibrant they could have been printed yesterday and there are no tears or other damage to the map papers.

Wonderground (detail), Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Detail of the folds created by the linen backing and the individual map pieces

The scanning part was very straightforward as the piece itself being quite happy to bend, with care, in different directions due to the linen backing being in very good condition. The part where the whole process has obviously become a little more like a wild mathematical equation is with my attempts at stitching the item back together digitally. Edges are not marrying up easily despite it looking like a relatively simple job. This is definitely due to the slightly busy nature of the piece and should be done a little bit at a time to avoid losing all track of the whole process!

Slowly does it.

Tea and South Africa

Looks like the last of the Gill pieces in need of conservation attention from our end have now been completed! Yesterday, Melissa Williams and I worked on the remaining items that consisted of six pieces that make up the plan for the South Africa tapestry from 1932 and the ‘Tea Revives the World’ piece from 1940.

South Africa tapestry, Max Gill, University of Brighton, Sirpa Kutilainen
Two examples of the six separate plans for the South Africa tapestry

The South Africa tapestry pieces were watercolour, ink and pencil on a heavily sized paper that has an almost rubbery surface to it. The background of the image appeared printed on and watercolours were painted on to fill in the colours.

South Africa tapestry, Max Gill, conservation, detail, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Recto of a tear in the corner of one of the South Africa tapestry pieces
South Africa tapestry, Max Gill, conservation, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Verso of the same torn corner. This had been ‘repaired’ using a piece of white tape, which was very easy to manually remove. This was replaced by a repair using heat-set tissue.

The watercolour areas on the tapestry plans were very fugitive, which meant that surface cleaning was only done on the areas not coloured. We used rubber to clean these areas. It was interesting to observe that with this type of waxy paper, all of the surface dirt sits quite neatly on top of the paper surface and is not let in to penetrate any paper fibres. Has anyone else out there worked with items like this?

The ‘Tea Revives the World’ piece is on a much softer and pourous paper that can be damaged much more easily. We did however assess that it was strong enough to not need backing, which is what we originally thought we might end up doing. Both this and the South Africa tapestry pieces were made their own Melinex sleeves ready for transport back here to Grand Parade.

Tea Revives the World, detail, Max Gill, University of Brighton Design Archives, Sirpa Kutilainen
Detail from the ‘Tea Revives the World’ poster from 1940 that specifically caught my eye. Russia fought the eastern border of the already independent Finland further inland to the west in The Winter War of Finland in the same year. I am also surprised to find our capital called by its Swedish name, Helsingfors.

The pieces will get picked up from the conservation studio tomorrow and will then join the rest of the items we have conserved for framing. The number of objects we worked on, conservation-wise, has totalled at 34. This is obviously only a fraction of the material chosen for the exhibition – some objects are being conserved elsewhere and/or brought in from different places.

The next big push will be for the cases to be built for the items that will be exhibited this way. We are currently on a mission to determine how many of these items will need glass weights to secure curling corners to keep the items happy in the cases – the objects most likely in need of some help will be a selection of the photographs on show. A selection of the other materials will be heavy enough to be placed in the glass cases as they are.