Songs of the Sea – preparing a print for loan

Christina and Matt with the print of Jack Crawford

Here’s a picture of two of our conservators, Christina and Matt, working on a print from the collection at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery. The print is now out on loan to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. For more info about the exhibition see below.

South Shields curator Adam Bell explains why the print is significant. The print depicts the Sunderland sailor Jack Crawford (1775-1831) who was the hero of the battle of Camperdown of October 11th, 1797. Crawford was serving on the flagship HMS Venerable during the battle between the English and Dutch fleets. Despite heavy gunfire, he climbed the mast to nail the Admiral’s flag back into place after it had been shot away. The lowering of the flag (colours) was a signal of surrender. After more fighting, the British fleet eventually won. (The artist has mistakenly shown the Union Jack, not the Admiral’s flag. It is also the Union flag design from after 1801, well after Jack’s heroic achievement).

The inscription at the bottom of the print reads, “THE CHAMPION OF ENGLAND.//’The Challenge_’//’THE FOE THOUGHT HE’D STRUCK_BUT HE SUNG OUT AVAST!//AND THE COLOURS OF OLD ENGLAND HE NAIL’D TO THE MAST!’//From the original Picture in the Collection of J.L.Thackeray, Esqre, The Park Nottingham,//to whom this Engraving is respectfully dedicated by this obliged Servants. Shaw & Sons”

It was engraved by T.H. Maguire, and is dated 1860. It is titled, ‘The Champion of England’. The accession number is TWCMS : 2002.1402

The exhibition ‘Songs of the Sea’ is at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland (21 July – 30 October 2011). The exhibition focuses on the sea as a metaphor for storytelling, exploring remarkable stories of personal experiences at sea.  So why not pop along to the exhibition and see Jack in action!?

2 Responses to Songs of the Sea – preparing a print for loan

  1. Mel Whewell says:

    Hello reader

    We’ve been asked for some more information about what actually happens to objects and documents when they are conserved prior to being exhibited. Matt, the conservator who worked on the Jack Crawford print mentioned above, has provided us with the following information which we hope you will find interesting.

    Matt, the conservator says….
    The photo on the blog above shows the print ‘Champion of England’ after being lightly pressed between wool felts and blotting paper. Prior to this the steel engraving underwent a routine conservation treatment procedure primarily to reduce the acidity in the paper. If this was left untreated the paper would degrade becoming friable over time and the image would discolour considerably.

    The back of the print was a dark yellow brown indicating that it was likely to be highly acidic, in order to remedy this a float wash in a bath of water made alkaline with calcium hydroxide was used to neutralise the pH of the paper. Small iron particles had to be removed from the paper with a scalpel and were detected by observing the image under Ultra Violet light. These could cause staining forming brown spots on the paper after washing.

    Solubility tests had to be performed on the watercolour washes of red yellow and blue before the treatment, the black is oil based ink and is usually very stable. The wash water turned brown like beer indicating the treatment was working well. When pressed after treatment the print was mounted in top quality 2200 micron mount board and the image was good to go for, hopefully for at least another 150 years.

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