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Thompson, Karen; Lennard, Frances (2013)
Publisher: Archetype Publications
Languages: English
Types: Part of book or chapter of book
Described as one of the finest collections of stock scenery in the country, and a rare survival from the 19th century, the painted scenery from Normansfield Theatre is the focus of this paper. A team of conservators from the Textile Conservation Centre, in collaboration with paintings conservators, conserved a representative selection of painted flats, a backdrop and a false proscenium for display on the stage as well as stabilising and storing the other items in a bespoke system so that they are accessible to researchers.\ud \ud Normansfield Theatre was a small private Victorian theatre and entertainment hall built in the grounds of a former hospital for people with learning difficulties. The theatre was used by the staff and patients for both therapeutic and recreational purposes between 1879 and 1909. The stage is a miniature version of a typical Georgian theatre, with grooves for scenic flats and mechanisms for hanging backdrops, set within a Victorian proscenium arch. Unusually over 100 pieces of stock scenery, created by established scene painters and dating from the 1870s, survived in its original setting. \ud \ud Although textile conservators are familiar with treating painted textiles, the Normansfield scenery with its large flexible canvases and water soluble, under-bound paint presented new conservation challenges. Research into the scenery’s materials and construction, collaboration with paintings conservators and the conservation treatment itself were able to shed more light on the scene painter’s art.
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    • 1. Langdon Down's name is associated with the chromosomal condition that now bears his name, Down's Syndrome.
    • 2. Taken from an advertisement for the hospital in the 1890s http:// langdondownmuseum.org.uk/dr-john-langdon-down-andnormansfield/normansfield (accessed 14 April 2012).
    • 3. Recreation Hall, Wakefield http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/ resources/theatres/show/2127-stanley-royd-hospital-theatre (accessed 19 April 2012) and Earl 2010: 31-2.
    • 4. Examples of well-preserved sixteenth-century theatres with complete working mechanisms and scenery can be found in Drottingham in Sweden and Český Krumlov and Litomysl in Bohemia.
    • 5. http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/2007- normansfield-hospital-entertainment-hall-theatre (accessed 19 April 2012).
    • 6. Further details on the work of Dr Langdon Down and the hospital can be found, most notably, in publications by O'Conor Ward (1996 and 2010) and from the Langdon Down Museum based at Normansfield. Further information about the theatre and general aspects about the scenery can found in Earl 2010.
    • 7. For details of the conservation treatment carried out please contact the authors (see 'Authors' addresses' below).
    • 8. Flats measure approximately 451-453 cm (H) × 85-192 cm (W); borders measure approximately 170-392 cm (H) × 667-685 cm (W); backdrops measure approximately 462-498 cm (H) × 550-600 cm (W); and walk-through cloths measure approximately 473-553 cm (H) × 620-642 cm (W) with opening 199 × 138 cm.
    • Earl, J. 2010. Dr Langdon Down's Normansfield Theatre, 2nd edn. London: Borough of Twickenham Local History Society and Down's Syndrome Association.
    • Joseph, S. 1964. Scenic Painting and Design. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd.
    • Lloyds, F. 1875. Practical Guide to Scene Painting and Painting in Distemper. London: George Rowney & Co.
    • Rosenfeld, S. 1981. Georgian Scene Painters and Scene Painting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Rowe, A. 1999. 'Preserving Normansfield Hospital Theatre: evolving a conservation strategy for a museum cum working theatre', in Preprints of the ICOM-CC 12th Triennial Meeting, J. Bridgland (ed.), 648-53. London: James & James.
    • hTompson, K. and Rowe, A. 2003. Painted Canvas Scenery for Normansfield Hospital Theatre, TCC Reference 2356. Unpublished TCC Research Report.
    • Ward, O'C. 1996. Dr Langdon Down of Normansfield. London: The Friends of Normansfield.
    • Ward, O'C. 2009. Dr John Langdon Down and Normansfield, 2nd edn. London: Langdon Down Centre Trust.
    • 9. All objects have a unique number TCC 2356 and a part number 1, 2, etc. The rolled cloths also had an 'R' (backdrop) or 'RB' (border) inserted before the part number. For brevity in the text these will be referred to by their part number.
    • 10. Tests were carried out using Shirlastain Fibre Identification Stains. These stains can be used to differentiate fibre types. Further details of the product can be obtained from: http://www.sdlatlas. com/product/61/Shirlastain-Fiber-Identification-Stains.
    • 11. Some of the theatres with which Douglass is associated includes: Empire Theatre, Brixton: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Brixton. htm (accessed 17 May 2012); Granville Theatre, Fulham: http:// www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/FulhamTheatres.htm (accessed 17 May 2012); and New Theatre Royal, Stockport: http://www. arthurlloyd.co.uk/StockportTheatres.htm (accessed 17 May 2012).
    • 12. Examples of Douglass's painting can be found at http://www. artfact.com/auction-lot/richard-douglass-19th-20th-centurypair-of-2r65awwma4-0-m-7a76a77320 (accessed 17 May 2012).
    • 13. Paint samples were examined under stereomicroscope and then tested for the presence of protein using the Buiret test.
    • 14. At that time he was a Research Fellow in Conservation Science, AHRC Research Centre.
    • 15. Although lead oxide is potentially a health issue, risk assessment indicated that the hazard to conservators was minimal if appropriate precautions were taken when handling it. It was considered that the paint would not present a public risk while on static display once conserved as full consolidation was proposed to reduce loss of the powdering paint containing the red oxide (Thompson and Rowe 2003).
    • 16. Jim Dimond, paintings conservator, pers. comm., 1997.
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