The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley *

9 01 2014

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,  Gang aft agley

It has been almost a month since my last blog post, so welcome back to those of you who have been loyal followers and to anyone else joining for the first post of 2014! There have been very specific reasons for the long silence – the obvious one has been the traditional construction industry shut-down for the Christmas break which meant that there has been relatively little to report from the site, but secondly I’ve had no time to sit at my computer as the collections care and curatorial teams have been cracking on with a huge and unexpected additional decant job which has taken over our lives.

Over the years I’ve watched enough episodes of Grand Designs to know that things don’t always go quite to plan, and while the first part of our decant programme in September went according to the schedule, unfortunately we have been unable to complete the process as expected. Our new stores are not yet ready for us to move into, but like one of those sliding tile puzzles, the ISG construction team need to move into the spaces that our collections currently occupy, so its all systems go and we are on the move again.

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Three stores have had to move and this includes works from all of our collections – fine art, textiles and wallpapers. New spaces have had to be cleared to make way for the collections, new boxes ordered for temporary storage, new short-term systems devised to accommodate items that should have moved instead to their permanent homes and every item carefully logged as their location has changed. All this has been achieved within a very chilly building and with no access to a lift – so a huge thanks is due to all Whitworth staff involved as well as all the extra external assistance. The downside is obviously the double handling and the cost of materials, staff time and other storage costs, while on the positive side this interim move has revealed some outstanding issues relating to permanent storage that call for collections management or collection care solutions and its been a great opportunity to shed those Christmas calories!

* For Robert Burns poem and an explanation of the dialect, see: http://www.electricscotland.com/burns/mouse.html

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Temporary haven for Textile Conservation

11 11 2013

Temporary haven for Textile Conservation

While its wet and windy on site, and seemingly colder on the inside of parts of the Gallery, than outside, our Textile Conservation team are snug in a temporary new home off-site. Two members of staff, and a student intern from Sweden are currently based in a large, light and airy studio, in part of the building which houses conservators from Manchester Art Gallery .

We are very grateful to the staff up at the city who have refurbished what had for some time served as an office space (see photo!), painted walls and relaid new flooring to once again re-establish the room as a functioning conservation studio. Furniture, equipment and materials, were carefully packed up and decanted to this temporary home. The new workplace was set up and staff are now happily working on a selection of Whitworth textiles – with a ‘green’ theme – in this tranquil haven, away from the noise of the construction site.

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The timing has been excellent, as the Whitworth has recently recruited a new Collection Care Technician, and the Manchester Art Gallery have just advertised for a two year trainee-ship in Costume Mounting. Staff at both institutions will undertake training for these new recruits while undertaking practical work on the collections, that will all go towards continuing displays and exhibitions at Manchester Art Gallery and Platt Hall, and for new displays when the Whitworth re-opens to the public in 2014.





Art Auction raises money for our new Collections Access facilities

21 09 2013

Collection access areaIt was a bit of an ‘edge of the seat’ moment at midnight on Friday 20 September for anyone bidding in the Friends of the Whitworth’s exciting online Art Auction.  Although the bidding had been open for some weeks, as is the way with these things, it all ‘hotted up’ during the last hours of Friday evening. The auction raised an amazing £5,000 which will be used towards the design and purchase of bespoke furniture and fittings for the Collections Access Area.

This new facility should become a first point of call for visitors entering the new Gallery building from Whitworth Park and will offer a half-way house between an exhibition and our Study Centre.  The Collections Access Area will show rapidly changing displays from the Gallery’s internationally renowned collections of fine art, textiles and wallpapers and provide opportunities for working alongside a range of collaborators from University academics to local community groups.  Objects will be displayed in a range of wall cases, browser drawers and glass topped tables and there will be access to books and computers in a relaxed and informal setting.  Groups will be able to book sessions in the spaces with members of staff and at other times, the space will be open for all our visitors with further interpretation offered by a skilled group of volunteers (if you would like to join this group please contact the Friends of the Whitworth at: http://www.friendsofthewhitworth.org.uk/contact.html or our Volunteer Coordinator at: kate.glynn@manchester.ac.uk).

In the meantime, the fundraising continues and if you missed out on the wonderful original artworks so kindly donated by artist friends and associates of the Gallery, then there will be another chance to bid for works by Richard Wentworth, Maxine Bristow, Alice Kettle and others in the run up to Christmas – so get saving and watch this space!