Cradles and Cases – bringing an exhibition loan back home

February 7, 2013 · 0 comments

in Conservation

by Audrey McGinley, NLI Conservation Intern

At the start of my conservation internship I was involved with the return of a loan from the National Gallery of Ireland exhibition Jack of all Trades: Yeats’s Punch Cartoons and Illustrations by Irish Painters. This loan included 10 prints and drawings, and 6 bound volumes from our NLI collections.

Jack of all Trades

Jack of all Trades, an exhibition which ran at the National Gallery of Ireland from July to December 2012

All library items, made from organic materials such as paper, leather and glues are particularly sensitive to extremes of light, temperature and humidity. To prevent changes to loan items, conservators regularly work side by side with curators to set suitable temperatures (between 18 and 20°C) and the relative humidity (50-55%), as well as ensuring appropriate display methods within low light levels. All this greatly reduces the risk of chemical or mechanical damage. These loan items had been assessed and prepared for exhibition by the library’s conservation department back in July 2012, in close collaboration with our colleagues in the NGI.

Book Cradles

Books were displayed at Jack of all Trades on specially designed book cradles in the exhibition cases

With the exhibit now closed to the public, we were escorted into the gallery space and the art handling team of the National Gallery facilitated access to the items. Each volume had been exhibited in a made-to-measure Perspex cradle, which supported the boards and the sewing of each binding while opened for display.  Barely visible strips of MylarTM then secured the page opening.

Removing invisible holding strips

Conservator Audrey McGinley removes ‘invisible’ holding strips from books

The condition of each loan item was then assessed against previous condition reports. The National Gallery has controlled environmental conditions of light, humidity and temperature for exhibiting items, so no change was found. All objects were then carefully packed for transport back to the library by us.


Audrey condition-checking each item in the National Gallery’s exhibition space

For me, this was a great introduction to the work involved behind the scenes of an exhibition, and how the whole process of loaning library collection items to other institutions works.

Information for institutions wishing to borrow National Library items for exhibition can be found on our website.

(Post of Conservation Intern is co-funded by the NLI and the Heritage Council)

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