Wednesday, 23 July 2014

William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery is located on the outskirts of London in Walthamstow.  As the name suggests, the Gallery and Archive are dedicated to collecting and preserving materials relating to William Morris, who was one of the founding fathers of the Arts and Crafts movement.  The Gallery also collects materials relating to Frank Brangwyn who helped to found the Gallery, as well as several of Morris' friends and fellow artists.  The Gallery and Archives are housed in the Water House, a Georgian mansion dating from 1750.  The house is located within the grounds of Lloyd Park.  William Morris resided in the residence during his youth.  The Gallery completed a renovation in 2012 which upgraded the space, and provided for storage for the archive collection.  The library and reading room are located on the upper floor, while the archive and gallery collections are stored within a secured environmentally controlled room in the basement.
      A tour through the Gallery provided information not only on the life and works of William Morris and his comrades, which is vast and varied, but also on the types of materials owned by the Gallery.  The range of items presented was vast and all present interesting preservation and storage concerns.  There were documents and books, but also tapestries, rugs, wallpapers, furniture, and printing equipment.  The Gallery itself is modern, with interactive displays and features.  
      In reviewing documents later in the day, I learned that the collections on display must be kept  in controlled conditions and regularly inspected for conservation concerns.  Items kept in storage are also regularly inspected for condition and are appraised for condition and damage concerns upon being acquired and processed.  Procedures for conservation and preservation action were clearly defined within the Gallery's conservation policy.
      The library and archives are just beginning to digitized their collections.  There is a limited number of items available online.  This applies to the catalog as well.  There are a small number of from the catalog which are available via the Gallery's website.  This does limit the ability to fully research the collection if a site visit is not feasible.  However, the librarians and curators are available via email to answer questions.
      As mentioned the reading room and library are located on the upper floor.  The space has clearly been modernized, but the library space was still cramped.  The reading room, however, was large and bright with amble work space.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  Not only were they able to answer the questions I had, they took the time and effort to locate administrative documents and reports that they thought would be beneficial to my research. 

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