Preparing for the Art Gallery Rehang Search of iMuseum

Preparing for the Art Gallery Rehang

Posted on 11.10.2023

An ambitious new rehang of the National Art Collection at the Manx Museum is underway.  The gallery will include a high proportion of art work that has either not been on public display before or has not been on display for over twenty years. The redisplay will include a large sculpture wall, a grand salon style hang and an enclosed dark room designed to protect light sensitive works. The exhibition will be engagingly interpreted, and will invite visitors to join us on a journey through Manx art.

In order to prepare for the redisplay a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes at the Manx Museum. We have almost 6,500 works of art in the collection by established Manx artists or by artists inspired by the Isle of Man, dating from the seventeenth century to the modern day. Drawn together over 100 years the collection is varied and eclectic. It includes everything from the earliest-known views of the Isle of Man and engaging portraits of Manx society figures, to our internationally celebrated internment art collection. A number of works in the in the collection would not  be considered ‘fine art’, but in a naïve or folk art manner tell us something important about the Isle of Man’s story. Around 50% of the collection has been digitised and is available to explore via our online collections site,

Inside the Art Store

The art works are stored in a dedicated facility at the Manx Museum, which has hanging racking for framed items and art cabinets for unframed pieces. One of the preparation tasks which took place in August 2023 was the photography of selected art pieces. Photographer Carola Rush came in to the Museum Art Stores with her camera, lights and studio equipment and Katie King, MNH Curator of Art and Social History directed operations. MNH Conservator Emma Le Cornu was on hand to assist with the delicate handling of the artworks.

Katie King and Emma Le Cornu preparing a picture for the camera.

When it came to photographing some of the larger artworks, two more members of the MNH team, Assistant Curator Hannah Murphy and Digital Collections Assistant Emma Morter provided some extra muscle.  Some of the pieces were very unwieldly and heavy and manoeuvring them onto the easel so that Carola could photograph them was no mean feat.  Carefully removing framed pictures from their storage works and carrying them through the Art Store to Carola’s temporary studio required some fancy footwork and good team communication skills!


Hannah, Katie and Emma moving a large picture.

Carola’s temporary studio also required a few extra pairs of hands to hold drapes in place and to steady artworks on the easel.

Hannah helps out.

Many of the art works we look after cannot be easily displayed in their current condition. Reasons include the works being unframed; they have badly damaged frames; they require off-Island conservation treatment; they are extremely damaged; they are too light sensitive to display in a gallery setting; they are bound in sketchbooks. For the 2023 rehang we decided to address a number of these issues through launching a focussed reframing and conservation programme. This has involved short listing art works for inclusion and preparing detailed conservation reports; mounting works of art on paper in preparation for framing; developing an enclosed dark room concept to enable very light sensitive works to be exhibited; photographing all selected art works; in house conservation of art works and preparing a number of key works for off-Island conservation treatment; researching and improving artist biography records and information about each art work; and improving online access. We are very grateful to the Friends of Manx National Heritage who have financially supported the conservation treatment and framing of key works for the rehang.

Carola at work.

The New Art Gallery

Much thought has also gone into the gallery display itself, with a bright new colour scheme and engaging interpretation. We will also be including an area in the gallery dedicated to our work caring for the collections. For this we will be including a number of damaged art works, so visitors can see the condition of some of the works in our care and understand different conservation techniques used to bring them back from the brink. For the most complicated treatments art works are required to leave the Island, and unfortunately the cost of treatments can be prohibitively expensive.

The Art Gallery will reopen on Saturday 9 December at the Manx Museum, Douglas.

Katie King

Curator: Art and Social History

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