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2 Posts tagged with the artwork tag
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by Lisa Di Tommaso (Special Collections Librarian)

 

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There’s no doubt many of you have enjoyed exhibitions of art or artefacts from around the world on a variety of topics. But have you ever considered just how the items brought together from across the globe actually made it to the gallery, and the activity involved? The Library at the Natural History Museum lends many items from its collections to exhibitions, be it to an institution just down the road, or to far-flung places overseas. The process of lending material starts many months in advance and involves a large number of people.

 

I was fortunate enough to travel to Australia recently, to oversee the delivery and installation of some unique artworks from our First Fleet Collection.

 

 

 

(Above and below) The cases containing the artwork are packed into the bespoke crate, before it is sealed.

 

The paintings were borrowed by the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, for their exhibition entitled Artist Colony, which brings together paintings by officers, convicts and other colonists who helped establish the first European settlement in Port Jackson in the early years from 1788.

 

In order for the State Library to be Packed crate.jpgable to borrow the items, a number of negotiations took place with the NHM, confirming the items they wished to borrow, the dates and length of time they would be lent for, the temperature and lighting conditions in which they would be displayed, and any security issues. This always involves a lot of paperwork and many emails back and forth across the globe. Temporary export licences are also arranged at this time. A specialist global shipping company was engaged to assist with the transport of items door to door by road and air.

 

As the time to send the items approached, the Museum’s Paper Conservator prepared the material for transport and for display, and wrote detailed reports on the condition of each item. Having a detailed record of the state of the material before it leaves the Library allows us to check the items again after their long journey to make sure no damage occurred en-route.  The art was then wrapped very carefully in layers of tissue and then packed securely into what look like large suitcases, lined with protective material to prevent any movement on the journey. The shipping company manufactured a bespoke wooden crate, in which the cases were again packed securely, allowing no room for movement and providing maximum shock absorption.

 

Checking the conditions of the artwork in Sydney.jpgInstalling one of our paintings.jpg

 

 

My job as courier was to travel with that case to Sydney, as far as possible not allowing it out of my sight. The crate and I were collected from the Museum early one morning on a lorry and taken to the company depot where last minute checks and paperwork were completed. We were next driven to the airport, where I oversaw the loading of the crate into a pallet which would then be loaded on to the aircraft. As ‘civilians’ are not allowed on to the tarmac, a company representative oversaw the loading of the pallet onto the plane.

 

 

 

(Above) Checking the conditions of the artwork in Sydney and installiing one of our paintings.

 

After a quick petrol stop at Dubai and assurances that the crate hadn’t been off-loaded, the journey continued on to Sydney. The crates were collected from the freight cargo area, and we were back on the truck to the State Library.

 

 

 

The items were left for 48 hours to acclimatise to their new environmental conditions before the crate was opened. I worked with the Conservation staff at the State Library to check the condition of each item on arrival, and then to oversee the installation of the paintings on to walls in the display area, and books in to their special cases. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to stay for the official opening of the exhibition, but feedback from visitors so far suggests they are thrilled to be able to see artworks which have travelled all the way from London, to be displayed alongside local collections for the first time.

Exhibition installation in progress.jpgEnsuring one of the NHM’s volumes is correctly placed in its case.jpg

 

(Above) Exhibition installation in progress and ensuring one of the NHM's volumes is correctly placed in its case.

 

It takes a huge team effort and plenty of logistics to bring together items for exhibitions – so spare a thought for all the people involved next time you admire an item on loan from another institution!

 

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The final installation!

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Although Neave Parker (1910-1961) had artistic ambitions from an early age, he was dissuaded from pursuing them by his father and was not allowed to attend art school. Instead, he took up employment in a bank but after just one disasterous week, he was firmly but kindly advised to seek another profession.

 

After working as a surveyor for a short while he then went on to serve in the Royal Air Force during World War II, working in the Photographic Unit. It was not until Parker was discharged that he finally was able to pursue art as a career. After making the acquaintance of Maurice Burton (1898-1992), a Scientific Associate at the Natural History Museum, London and also Honorary Science Editor at the Illustrated London News, he began a collaboration with Burton to produce animal illustrations for a non-technical audience. The first of his drawings of prehistoric animals appeared in the Illustrated London News on 30 September, 1950.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burton then introduced him to Dr William Elgin Swinton (1900-1994), a palaeontologist at the Museum, and it was through this collaboration that Parker completed numerous dinosaur illustrations. These featured in a range of publications including The Dinosaurs (1970) and Dinosaurs: their discovery and their world (1961). He was also commissioned by the Museum to produce a series of reconstructions which were sold as postcards.

 

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Parker pioneered the art of restoring entire palaeo-environments of dinosaurs and was highly regarded by his scientific associates at the Museum. His drawings in monochrome gouache and wash drawings became trademarks of his distinctive style, which vividly represented the formerly held opinions of how such creatures appeared.

 

Parker's other passions in life was food, beer, pistol shooting (he was a British Open Champion), photography and films. It was in a cinema that he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1961.

 

Learn more about our art collections and see some great examples via our Library & Archives pages.

 

Further reading:

 

Debus, Allen A. (1987) 'Neave Parker: vertebrate palaeontology's masterful necromancer', The Earth Science News, vol. 38, No. 11 pp.21-24

Debus, Allen A. and Debus, Diane E. (2002) Paleoimagery: the evolution of dinosaurs in art, Jefferson N. C.:McFarland & Co., Publishers

 

Paracyclotosaurus NHMPL 004091.jpgCetiosaurus NHMPL 002917.jpg