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Thursday, May 29 • 9:40am - 10:00am
(Opening Session) Being a Gallery in a Park – Balancing Sustainability, Access and Collection Care

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The Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, founded in 1889 is home to nationally designated collections of watercolors, prints, wallpapers and textiles, and has an active collecting policy for contemporary works. It is currently undergoing a capital building development that includes a new extension and a refurbishment of elements of an historic building, increasing its footprint by 30%. As part of the University of Manchester, the Gallery is required by its funding bodies and the Heritage Lottery Fund who have provided the majority of our project funding to meet high energy efficiency and carbon reduction targets. This requirement underpinned a sustainable brief to the architects and accompanying design team that demanded a 10% overall reduction in carbon emissions, energy saving strategies, the introduction of green technologies, and a commitment to achieve an 'Excellent' rating in the UK construction industry sustainable assessment tool, BREEAM. Additionally, it provided institutional motivation to build on existing practices and further embed sustainability within all aspects of Gallery operations.

The paper will focus on four specific areas:
  • Re-assessment of temperature and relative humidity parameters for the storage and display of the collections
  • A new approach to lighting control and the management of increased daylight into gallery spaces
  • Use of modular re-usable display systems and local control of the recycling of materials
  • Management of biodiversity, corporate and educational events together with integrated pest management
The first two areas are a result of capital investment coinciding with concern for environmental targets, and providing an opportunity for collection care staff to work alongside a design team to understand and respond to the challenges inherent within the existing building, and to the collection care needs of the objects housed within it. The paper will describe a move away from expensive and unsustainable air conditioning (HVAC) systems to a passive environmental approach by reintroducing natural ventilation, installing earth tubes and ground source heat pumps, making use of the thermal properties of the building envelope and operating conservation heating. 

The third area describes a long-standing ability by conservation and technical staff to make creative use of display equipment, previously driven by financial constraints, but now established as a routine reaction to green concerns. This includes the re-use of Panelock exhibition screens and picture display frames, the design and manufacture of a modular mounting system for the display of textiles, multifunctional use of all display equipment, careful waste management practices and the recycling of storage and exhibition equipment to other local cultural organizations via professional networks.

Fourth, with the Gallery located within a parkland setting, and incorporating both a green and a bio-diverse roof, as well as hosting a wide variety of events and activities (inside and outside), conservation staff find themselves treading a fine line between engaging with green initiatives, continuing to provide access to the collections to increasingly diverse audiences, while maintaining Integrated Pest Management procedures.

Throughout all these various strands, the gallery aspires to a triple bottom line approach, adding economic and environmental factors to finding a workable and sustainable balance between access and collection care. This paper will examine and evaluate the methodologies developed and successfully applied.

avatar for Nicola Walker

Nicola Walker

Head of Collection Care & Access, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester
Nicola Walker trained as a paper conservator in Newcastle, and worked in that capacity in the UK, in Oxford, Manchester and Liverpool for over 20 years, including 13 years at the Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester, working on its collections of prints, drawings, watercolours... Read More →


Ann French

Textile Conservator and Collection Care Manager, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, UK
Ann French has worked in the field of Textile Conservation for nearly thirty years for a variety of institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Glasgow Museums, the Area Museums Council for the South West and the National Trust for England and Wales.  She has been employed... Read More →

Thursday May 29, 2014 9:40am - 10:00am PDT
Grand Ballroom A-C