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.

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