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Behind the Scenes Blog

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11th April 2017

Today was moving day for our upcoming exhibition ‘Refracted: Collection Highlights’ here at the Russell-Cotes. Pieces that have been selected had to be carefully wrapped and arranged in transport boxes to be moved from our study centre to the museum. The objects will be displayed as part of our LGBT+ inspired exhibition, open to the public from 13th May 2017 and running until the end of summer, 8th September.

Some of the pieces were not the easiest to wrap thanks to their intricate shapes and required quite a lot of moving around to fit into our boxes, a little like a jigsaw puzzle. Certain items like the Hindu deity Sita were deceivingly heavy for their appearance and definitely required some muscle strength to move! This object will be part of the ‘spirit’ theme associated with the colour purple from the Rainbow Flag, which is how the ‘Refracted: Collection Highlights’ exhibition will be organised. Other objects, such as the alpine boy, are extremely delicate due to their material and will need extra special care when transporting.

With just a month left until the exhibition, Alice and Duncan worked hard getting everything ready and packed, and we wanted to share the journey with you to show some behind-the-scenes!


The alpine boy getting comfortable for his journey to the museum

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Some shapes are not as easy to wrap!

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Written by Milenka, Social Media Volunteer

9th March 2017

So February appears to have been missed off completely- apologies for this, a combination of annual leave and a lot of list making are to blame.

The list making I refer to is the on-going-nearly-complete final list of paintings for the ‘Refracted’ exhibition (this is now the title of our LGBT+ community exhibition). To make this list even more streamlined it is necessary to work out the ‘hang’ of the gallery. This is done by working out the size of the wall space (i.e. measuring it with a tape measure or looking at floor plans), then sourcing the height and width of each individual painting including frames. (Note: it is very important to include the frames as some are at least twice the size of the artwork, which could lead to significant miscalculations!).

The paintings are then arranged on the wall. Obviously they cannot be arranged on the actual wall so they are arranged on a series of hand drawn gallery plans. Each time a painting is added the space it will take up on the wall is calculated allowing for between 10-30cm wall space each side. The entire process is a bit like one of those logic puzzles that seem to appear around Christmas time: you think you’re nearly there then you change one thing and have to alter pretty much everything you have done up to that point!


A photo of the plan for the hang. Note the measurements of each piece in cm. 

Label research and writing is well underway. The exhibitions team has morphed into the research team, each undertaking the writing of three or more labels. It certainly is an undertaking! Although the labels are roughly 100 words or less, a lot of time is put into researching each one. Each painting has a file detailing its specific history. Depending on the object it can take hours to read through all the documentation and then there’s books and online resources to consider. With all this information 100 words is really very limited so deciding what goes in is tough job!

I’ll leave you with a date for your diary – watch out on the Russell-Cotes’ social media channels on Thursday 16th March. It may have something to do with ‘Refracted’…


Chris researching and label writing. 

January 19th 2017

Happy New Year! A bit late but as this is the first blog post of 2017 it seems appropriate nonetheless.

In case you missed it, we are over the moon to announce that we have been awarded £132,453 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Wolfson Foundation. This money will support our Art Galleries Skylight Project, which will conserve the roof structures over our galleries, letting natural light in through the stained glass & improving environmental conditions. Long term this will enable us to bring you bigger and better exhibitions: great news for everyone!

Updates on the LGBT+ Community Exhibtion: Last week was spent selecting paintings for the exhibition in May. We spent three hours in Picture Store Two and only managed to see around a third of the paintings on the ‘pick list’ (our list of paintings that we are considering for the final exhibition) so that should give you some idea of the size of the list!

When we look at the paintings we are taking into account their quality (in terms of will they need restoring before the exhibition), whether they fit with the themes of our exhibition and how they will fit with each other. For example, we looked at a number of lovely landscape paintings. They are all very nice but we really only need one as opposed to five. These are the sorts of decisions that we will have to make over the next week. -Alice

Picture store 2

Judith, Chris, Nigel and Ezgi considering a painting being held by Helen.

Helen and Alice 2

Helen and Myself sourcing the next painting for consideration (Photo by Chris Flynn)

December 22nd 2016

The smell of floor polish and the sound of Duncan’s mega mix are filling the rooms of the Russell-Cotes this week. No, it’s not a strange new exhibition, we’re closed for floor polishing and other necessary tasks.

PolishingBeth, Elissa and Miranda polishing the floor in the Dining Room

The floor polishing is the main event and is the reason why the museum is closed for a week. In order to polish the floor in each room all items on display need to be carefully moved to an alternate location- this has included our beautiful Christmas trees. Each floor then has numerous coats of polish applied before being polished with a floor buffer. When everything is dry it is then time for all of the objects to be placed back in their original positions.

PetePete using the floor buffer

Just in case this wasn’t enough, we have also been painting the walls.

mirandaMiranda working on the spiral stair case

Parallel to this hive of activiy on the shop floor, we have been at work behind the scenes in Picture Store two.


April measuring the plastazote foam

The racks which house the paintings needed to be lined with plastazote foam in order to cushion the frames of the paintings and prevent damage. This was also a good opportunity to look at every painting, assess its condition and check it was in the right location.

Alice and April

Alice and April standing in front of the completed racks

From everyone at the Russell-Cotes- hope you have a Merry Christmas! -Alice


December 12st 2016

What do a mummified bird, a Maori canoe paddle and a model ship called ‘Clementine’ have in common? No, it’s not the start of a joke. They are all objects in the Russell-Cotes collection and last week the exhibition team for the LGBT+ project spent the afternoon looking at these items and many, many more. Duncan, the Curator, showed the team around the object store.

Chris and Nigel

Chris and Nigel investigate

It was an exciting afternoon and gave the team an idea of the number of objects we are dealing with- there are well over 40, 000 objects in the collection! Not something that can be fully understood until you are standing in a room with shelves upon shelves of objects wrapped in acid free tissue.


One of the many shelves in the store

Now the challenge is deciding which ones to pick for our exhibition next year. We have decided on a theme for the exhibition (which will be revealed in the new year) and we are selecting objects accordingly. The exhibition team went away with lots of things to think about but definitely enthused for our next meeting in the new year. – Alice

Looking at Objects

Looking around the store


December 1st 2016

The big news this week is the loan of a piece well-loved by visitors and staff alike: ‘Midsummer’ by Albert Moore. ‘Midsummer’ has gone on a trip starting in the Netherlands at the Museum De Buitenplaats as part of their ‘Albert Moore. Of Beauty and Aesthetics’ exhibition. This show will bring together amazing works from public and private collections across Europe. Next ‘Midsummer’ will travel to York on the 7th April 2017 as part of the same exhibition. The Exhibition should be well worth a visit, especially the York leg of the tour which has the added significance of being the birth place of Albert Moore in 1841.

The move of ‘Midsummer’, took the combined efforts of no less than eight people. Due to the scale of the piece, the painting is only able to be removed through one door. The door in question is the original entrance to the house which is, unfortunately for the movers of ‘Midsummer’, up a considerable number of steps. As such the entire move took well over half a day to achieve. The good news is it wasn’t raining as otherwise the entire move would have had to be postponed until a clearer day.

Moore, Albert Joseph, 1841-1893; Midsummer

‘Midsummer’ by Albert Moore


November 24th 2016

Christmas has arrived at the Russell-Cotes. The Dining Room is looking suitably festive with crackers, baubles and cherubs making an appearance. So far we have one Christmas tree, complete with angel, which is shortly to be joined by a couple more trees at various locations throughout the museum. Christmas is spreading! We are also looking forward to a visit from the man himself- Father Christmas will be at the Russell-Cotes on 10th and 11th December. Book to avoid disappointment on 01202451820.


Last evening the museum played host to over 150 guests in order to launch our highly anticipated new friends scheme. Guests enjoyed a private view of all three of our current exhibitions and a chance to mingle with curators and artists alike. This increased level of engagement is an example of the events we are offering as part of our new friends scheme. For more information and to sign up visit http://russellcotes.com/friends-scheme/


Here are Beth (our Fundraising Office) and Ruaidhri (our Visitor Services Team Leader) enjoying themselves at the Friends Launch.

Our LGBT+ community exhibition project is well under way. Our first volunteer meeting was great and we have now formed an exhibition team from this meeting. We are in the early stages of the planning process so our main focus is deciding on a title and theme for the exhibition. It certainly promises to be an exciting couple of weeks ahead! – Alice

November 17th 2016

Welcome to the first blog post from the Russell-Cotes. We are hoping to give you an insight into the behind the scenes activities of the historic house.

The first blog post is from Alice, a new member of staff who is working on the LGBT+ community exhibition that will be on in the gallery next May.

I write this sitting in Gallery 3 where the exhibition to commemorate 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality will be on display from May next year. At the moment it is housing the Modernism Exhibition (on until 24th April and well worth a visit!).

Currently the exhibition is in the early stages, we have a working title ‘For the Love of the Russell-Cotes’ but that may well change. One thing we are sure of is that the exhibition will be featuring the highlights of the Russell-Cotes’ collection. The exhibition will be put on with the help of local volunteers from the LGBT+ community who will be involved with everything from the selection of works to the marketing and organisation of events. So far we have had a great response and I am looking forward to meeting everyone next week at our first meeting which will be at 1pm Wednesday 23rd - do come along if you are free!

As I have only started working here recently I have been familiarising myself with the collection which has been fantastic- I have greatly enjoyed seeing the sheer volume of objects – picking the highlights will definitely be a challenge as there is just so much on offer!

I leave you with a picture of one of my favourite images from the current exhibition ‘Meeting Modernism’.


Sydenham Church, Suffolk by John Piper.What attracts me to this piece is the contrast of the block colours of the roof and the delicate outlines of the stained glass windows.






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