The Visual Collections Team has joined forces with Collection Care conservator Niki Pantazidou to try and make sense of a group of wrapped pictures that are stored in the cellar. Many of these pictures haven’t been unwrapped or seen since the major refurbishment of the library, which began in 2003. As storage for our art works becomes a growing concern within the library due to limited space and conservation concerns we are endeavouring to identify items that might be de-framed and possibly stored or displayed elsewhere without damaging the material. Niki and I are conducting an initial survey of the material and trying to work out who and what the images are of and the condition of the pictures themselves.
The first images that have been unveiled were a collection of the great and the good related to the library, mainly black and white, formal portraits of the former Keepers of Manuscripts, Librarians and Directors of the Rylands – all men! Many of the names were familiar even if the faces were not as these figures have been commemorated in the building names across the University Campus, such as Arthur Armitage, Lord Stopford and Sir William Mansfield Cooper.
We have discovered an array of Methodist Conference photographs, my favourite being a collage of attendees faces cut out and grouped together to create an image of all the conference participants. There have been a series of school photographs from the Hunmanby School from the 1980s, which chart an enviable display of hairstyles and fashions. However, our most exciting and timely find so far has been a collection of Jeff Nuttall (1933-2004) drawings and photographs from the 1970s. This serendipitous find was just too late to be included in our new exhibition, Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground, which starts in September 2016. The Cellar Art Project continues as there are many pictures left to unpack yet, so who knows what we will discover next.