Work on the Founder’s Entrance lantern is in full swing. The internal plaster conservation works were completed last month, along with the conservation cleaning. And Tobit Curteis Associates have given us the below update on the conservation paint treatments they have been working on.
The scheme of decorative plasterwork and polychromy in the entrance hall is among the finest of its period in the country. It was conserved for the first time at the turn of the millennium at which point it was found that, although the surfaces were extremely dirty, having lived through the Industrial Revolution, the condition of the plaster and paint work was generally very good. Cleaning and conservation revealed the decoration in all its richness and had a huge effect on the appearance of the hall as visitors enter the museum. Some 17 years later, the conservation survey showed the condition still to be generally very good although there had been additional accumulation of dust and dirt as well as some minor flaking and loss resulting from unstable environmental conditions.
The aim of the current conservation project therefore is to record and document the condition of the decoration and to carry out limited stabilisation, cleaning and retouching. The team of conservators, working with Tobit Curteis Associates, has now been working on the conservation of the polychromy for three weeks and the work is progressing well. Most of the treatment carried out by Tobit’ team in 1999 and 2000 has remained stable and the areas of more recent damage have responded well to treatment. The planned relighting of the entrance hall will further improve its appearance so that visitors can again experience the decorative scheme much as the architect originally intended.
Investigations into the lantern are well underway. (Catch up with what has happened so far by reading Part 1 & 2.)
Specialist contractors Brown & Ralph have begun to look at the side windows of the lantern. After removing the glazing putty from one of the panes of glass, more information about the original intent has been revealed.
Each pane has a central section of etching, with a clear border around the edges. Over the years, as repairs have been done and panes replaced, the putty and paint lines have crept further inwards, making the clear border not visible.
The glass will be removed and cleaned. And, as the glass is reset, the putty line will be restored so that the clear border will be visible again. Looking at the windows as a whole, it is possible to tell which panes have been replaced. The ones with a rose tint are original. As part of this project, we intend to replace the newer non-tinted glass with rose-tinted etched glass in order to return to the original aesthetic.
Keep an eye on the blog – we will keep you updated as the project progresses.
The installation of scaffolding took several weeks. During this time, there was a great awareness of the potential risk to the historic interiors and the collections in surrounding galleries. There were several methods of protection in place, to minimise risk from physical damage (e.g. knocks, scratches), as well as dust.
Now the scaffolding is up, survey work has begun and it provides a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the lantern interior. Not only do we need to establish the extent of any deterioration or damage to the building and its decorative interiors, but also if we can understand the causes.
For example, staining in the dust below the side windows indicates that there has been condensation or water ingress. Closer inspection of the internal timber reveals that there is a condensation tray at the base of the lantern side windows. This design originally allows for collected condensation to flow through an outlet pipe to the outside. It may be that the pipes have been blocked by insects, causing the tray to overflow. To stop this happening in the future, we need to confirm the cause and either make modifications to the design or ensure changes to the maintenance of the current pipework.
We are still at the early stages of the project, and so survey of the plasterwork and internal decoration are ongoing.
We shall keep you updated as the project progresses – watch this space!
The Fitzwilliam Museum is about to undertake a major building conservation project in the Founder’s Entrance. The focus will be on the lantern at the very top of the building.
The Founder’s building was first opened to the public in 1848 and the maintenance and preservation of the historic features is paramount. As a Grade 1 listed building, it is a priority to ensure it will remain resilient long into the future.
This project will look to address a variety of different aspects, including the replacement of some of the gutters and rain water pipes to prevent leaks. Repairs and replacement of some of the damaged curved glass and glazing compound (which holds the glass in place) will be done. Conservation work to the internal decorative plasterwork and balustrade will also be undertaken.
Work has already begun in preparation for the scaffold installation: the sculptures that usually sit on the first floor landing have been boxed up and put into storage for safekeeping.
From the end of April, a large scaffold platform will be installed across the whole of the Founder’s Entrance to allow access to the lantern. This will mean that the Entrance Hall will need to be closed to visitors for a few weeks. Once the scaffold is up and false ceiling put in, visitors will be able to visit the Hall once again.
This project will continue into early 2018. Please keep an eye on the Conservation and Collections Care blog for updates and photos.