A Trainee’s Experience on the Art UK Sculpture Project

Art UK’s project of photographing sculptures in art galleries nationwide recently involved objects in Royal Pavilion & Museums’ collections.

Photographer behind camera photographing small sculpture on table.
Photography in Museum Lab

The aim of Art UK‘s project is to photograph sculptures in public collections across the country to collate into one database. Being involved in the project was a great opportunity for me to learn about professional photography, especially as my Museum Futures traineeship has a digital focus, including the digitisation of museum collections. Although I initially joined the project as a fly on the wall, I ended up being able to gain some really valuable experience in object handling, conservation and documentation.

While assisting with the photography, I took some photos to document the process — although looking at the poor quality of the photos I took, it was obvious I could learn a thing or two from the professional photographer!

The photography is being done regionally and the Brighton-based part of the project took place in July 2019, starting with preparing the sculptures in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery’s Museum Lab and our off site store. This was the perfect opportunity for me to do some object handling; something I’d been hoping to do for a while. It mainly involved brushing dust off of the works, which ranged from life size busts of Brighton dignitaries to a miniature plaque of Princess Charlotte. As most of the objects had been safely tucked away in stores for many years, many of them required a fair bit of cleaning, done so by using a soft conservation brush to very gently remove any dust.

 

With the sculptures all newly cleaned, photography started the following week. One of the sculptures included in the project was a piece by Frank Stella currently on display in the Heyer Gallery in Brighton Museum, which bought about its own logistical challenges photographing it in situ. Nevertheless, between the team of photographers, curators and technicians, the photo was taken and photography was moving at a steady rate, which only progressed throughout the day. We had scheduled in two days of photography at the museum, but ended up only needing one.

A camera in the foreground with a table, grey backdrop and professional lights in the background.
Photography set up in Museum Lab

On day two, some of the team went to photograph a sculpture on display in Brighton Town Hall, before we all went to the off-site store for the rest of the photography, where the project continued for three more days. As the project progressed, my role increased from just observing to using our collections management system to check for duplicate records and to update object locations, as well as marking which objects had been photographed and cleaning the remaining sculptures which hadn’t been cleaned last week.

Because the project is on such a large scale, it will be a few months before the images are processed and published online. Until then, you can view our already digitised Fine Art collections on our Digital Media Bank.

Tasha Brown, Museum Futures Trainee

Leave a Reply