My second full week (third calendar week in the job) saw lots of activity in the temporary exhibition galleries as it was time to install ‘Life through the eyes of East Anglian artists’, displaying the talent of artists belonging to the Norfolk and Suffolk school throughout the 19th century. Because I’d never worked so closely with any artwork before, let alone oil paintings approaching two hundred years old, I didn’t quite know what to expect. It turned out to be quite a relaxed affair. The paintings arrived in semi-improvised cardboard boxes, pieces fell off the gilt frames and were glued back on and the hanging itself was carried out with a tape measure, spirit level and plenty of mental arithmetic involving inches, centimetres and millimetres.
Splitting the work between Monday and Wednesday, three or four of us successfully hungthe 34 pictures, including oils, watercolours and drawings. In the meantime, fellow interns Helen and Net filled the cabinets with a great selection of objects from the museum’s stores to create a giant game of ‘I Spy’ between the pictures and the object display cases. I don’t have an artistic background, but seeing the pictures hung and properly lit really is something special, and brings to life details I’d completely missed even when I was up close holding them in position.
I also had a lot of fun putting together a half-hour soundscape which plays in the galleries, bringing together many strands of East Anglian rural life in the 19th century, from farming and fishing to fairs and families. Farmyard sounds, birdsong, groaning water mills and the lyrics of local traditional songs all contribute to the game of ‘I Spy’, and I hope this will really excite families as they move through galleries.
We’ve all really enjoyed hearing enthusiastic feedback from the private viewing as the exhibition launched on the Thursday evening, and sure I’m that the hard work of John Day, the owner of the artworks, and the wonderful staff, interns and volunteers will prove just as popular with our visitors over the next twelve months.
‘Life through the eyes of East Anglian artists’ runs until 31st March 2017 during normal museum opening hours. Entry is free.