Industrial Museum Sheds 2009

  • 19 October 2009:
    As work on the new Museum of Bristol at M-Shed approaches completion, more help than ever is needed to maintain and operate the former Industrial Museum’s collections. The steam tug `Mayflower’ is approaching the end of a major overhaul, with a view to her returning to active service on her 150th anniversary in May 2011. The other two boats in the Museum,’s fleet – the fire boat Pyronaut and the tug John King – are also being overhauled seriously and work is continuing on the next dock-side crane, No. 32, the 10 ton version. The `Railway Fleet’ (if that is the collective term) of locomotives and rolling stock will need continuing maintenance, particularly as the latter have to withstand the elements all year round. Anyone with reasonable DIY skills will be most welcome, particularly experienced woodworkers and trained electricians who learned their trade when components were a lot more substantial than today’s miniaturised electronic devices.
    In addition, the Museum’s huge collections of photographs and other images and oral history recordings are being digitised by volunteers. Specialist knowledge of the subjects shown or talked about can be useful, but there’s plenty of general material too.
    Anyone interested should contact Andy King on 0117 9031569 or at andy.king@bristol.gov.uk
  • Walls of art restored at Bristol museum Wednesday, October 22, 2008, 22:43
    Huge fresco artworks at the Industrial Museum, hidden away and covered with years of grime, are being restored. A team of conservators have spent the last year strengthening the frescoes – paintings done on plaster. Now they are painstakingly stripping away a layer of thick brown varnish to reveal beautiful paintings of Greek heroes that were last seen almost a century ago.
    Carolyn Lamb, painting conservator at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, who is overseeing the project, said: “It is really exciting. When you have something time has aged so badly that you can’t see what it is and bring it back to existence from nothing, it is fantastic.”
    The three frescoes, which date back to the start of the 18th century, were originally built and painted on plaster and wooden walls for a house in Queen Square, which belonged to the Elton family, who were important merchants in Bristol. The property passed to the Grace brothers at the start of the 20th century, and when the merchant siblings renovated it to expand their business, they saved the walls and donated them to the Bristol Art Gallery in 1907.
    The paintings were displayed in 1918, but not much is known about them since, and they were stored at the Industrial Museum until last year. Working on them has been a huge task for the restorers.
    Ms Lamb said: “The frescoes have probably never been cleaned in almost 300 years, so they are bound to be in a bit of a state. “One of the problems is that they are incredibly heavy. The two large ones weigh one and a half tonnes each, and the small one takes four men to lift it. We had to screw metal frames to the backs and stick the plaster back together because it was breaking up, and for the last week we have been cleaning off the dark brown varnish. Before this we could only see vague shapes. Now we have discovered one of the large wall frescoes depicts the judgement of Paris, and the other is the arming of Achilles, which we believe formed part of the stairwell. The small one is the coat of arms of the Elton family, with two cherubs either side, which would have been situated above a door.”
    But who the frescoes were painted by remains a mystery. One theory is they were by a European travelling artist called Verrio, who came to Britain on Royal invitation. Ms Lamb said: “The house was built in 1699 and Verrio went blind in 1905, so he would have been working to a tight time scale. The next step for us is to bring in a historical art expert to identify the artist.”
    Once restoration of the frescoes – which is being carried out by a five-strong team from the International Fine Art Conservation Studios – is complete in December, they will be stored at the Industrial Museum until they can be displayed at the new Museum of Bristol when it opens in 2011.
  • 8 Oct 08 (Evening Post): Bristol Industrial Museum’s doors to past and future
    The former industrial sheds that will house Bristol’s new dockside museum have been re-fitted with their original 1950s doors. The £25-million Museum of Bristol is being built on the site of the landmark transit sheds that were home to the former Industrial Museum, near Prince Street Bridge. Yesterday, the nine original external doors were lifted into place by a crane and installed. They have been restored, repaired and conserved off-site by Eura Conservation, the company which also worked on conserving the structure of the ss Great Britain. Now painted deep red, the huge sliding doors were iconic of the former industrial museum and are fundamental to the design of the new museum.
    Watching the doors being lowered into place was Sue Thurlow, founder member and chairwoman of Princes Wharf Action Group, which was set up to make sure a conservation approach was taken in developing the building. She is also part of the public advisory group which is made up of people who are committed to making sure the museum is a success. She said: “These doors are very important to the building, and something people felt very passionate about. Suddenly the building is no longer a skeleton – it is starting to take form. “The doors look lovely, very shiny and a bright red, which makes a strong impact. I am really excited to see them in place.”
    Construction work is well underway on the new museum, and work continues behind the scenes to develop the museums displays and exhibitions. Staff have been working with historians, local history societies, youth groups, and people from Bristol’s communities to create a museum that will tell the story of local people and their neighbourhoods. Bristol City Council, which is running the project, says the Museum of Bristol is scheduled to open in 2011. It has been made possible with a £11.3m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and support from the city council, Renaissance South West and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
    The whole site – the sheds and their quayside – is one of the last remaining complete 20th century docksides in the UK.
  • 5 Oct 08: The redevelopment pf L&M Sheds has reached a significant milestone for us – the first few of the refurbished doors are now back on site. They’re painted a deep red, and the concrete frame is mid-grey — not “authentic” in the sense of replicating any original scheme, but hopefully not too controversial.

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