Installing Splendours of the Subcontinent

After whetting the appetite with a series of blogs offering insight into small aspects of the exhibition, Splendours of the Subcontinent is now open for visitors.

Cameron Crawley, Exhibitions Project Co-Ordinator has written a blog for us looking at the installation process:

After months of preparation and conservation work, Splendours of the Subcontinent is now on display at Cartwright Hall.  This represents the culmination of the work of nearly two dozen people, ranging from curators, conservators and couriers to art handlers and mount makers.  Their efforts peaked during the installation of the exhibition: in this case two-weeks in which the objects were made ready for public display in 18 unique display cases.  I can attest to the fact that it was not as simple as putting the objects in a display case and calling it a day, and I am hoping that this blog post can illustrate some of the technical  work that goes into the display of such fascinating objects.

The installation officially began once the objects were packed into bespoke crates and transferred to Cartwright Hall.  Upon arrival at the gallery, the technical work then began in earnest: the objects were removed from their crates and were unpacked in the order that they were to be installed.  Each object was inspected by a conservator to ensure that they were ready for display.

Whilst this was happening, other members of the installation team were at work installing and positioning the display cases for housing the objects during the exhibition, as well as making any necessary modifications to the cases.  Once the objects had been checked by the conservators, the mount makers began matching and fitting the objects to their mounts.  This is highly-skilled work that requires time, finesse and flexibility.  The curator was on hand to help choose the best position for each object in the cases.  Once the final tweaks were made to the mounts, and the team was happy with the location of the objects within the case, the works could be officially installed. This pattern continued for the rest of the exhibition installation: works were checked by the conservators before being passed to the mount makers and then to the curator who advised on how the objects would be displayed.

Conservators installing a modern palace - Nitrile Gloves and Mylar make installing a model palace that much easier.
Nitrile Gloves and Mylar make installing a model palace that much easier.

However, the installation work is not finished even once all the objects are in their display cases.  Next the works had to be lit.  This task requires striking a balance between wanting the objects to look their splendid best whilst limiting any potential light damage.  At this stage, relevant labels and text panels were also put in place so that they could be lit simultaneously with the works of art.

Final touches and lighting the cases
Final touches and lighting

This was the final stage of the installation: once the objects were appropriately lit, the cases could be closed, cleaned, and made ready for their debut!  All that was left was to open the doors to the public which I’m pleased to say happened last weekend. From all of us involved with Splendours of the Subcontinent, we do hope that you have a chance to visit and enjoy the exhibition

Admiring the finished product.
Admiring the finished product.

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