Preparing for Flower Power
18 May 2016
RAMM’s forthcoming exhibition Flower Power: Botanical illustrations from India (11 June to 11 September) has been made possible through grant funding from Arts Council England’s PRISM Fund and the Finnis Scott Foundation. The exhibition features a selection of RAMM’s rare 19th-century drawings of medicinal plants.
The Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (PRISM) Fund
86 botanical illustrations from the collection of Devon botanist, Reverend Richard Cresswell (1815-1882) were conserved with a £22,000 grant from the ACE PRISM Fund. They are extremely rare and have high historical and scientific importance and, as far as is known, RAMM is the only non-national UK collection to hold original drawings from this group, the others being at Kew, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. A selection of the illustrations will be displayed in the Flower Power exhibition.
The PRISM Fund is administered by Arts Council England and awards grants towards the costs of acquisition and conservation of items or collections which are important in the history and development of science, technology, industry, and related fields.
The conservation of the drawings is particularly challenging because of the inherent fragility of the mediums; they are painted on paper with gouache and watercolour with pencil under-drawing and ink inscriptions. As well as a fairly standard range of problems including surface soiling, creasing and tears, atmospheric pollution has caused the formation of acid in the paper, seen as discolouration and staining. Pollutants have also caused lead-based colours to blacken, which has changed the appearance and colour balance of many of the drawings. Careful conservation work can reverse these changes and return the work to their original, stable colours.
Finnis Scott Foundation
A £3,000 grant from the Finnis Scott Foundation allowed RAMM to stage the exhibition. The Foundation supports activities relating to horticulture and plant sciences, fine art and art history reflecting the two enduring preoccupations of its founder Valerie Finnis V.M.H. (1924-2006) and her husband Sir David Montagu Douglas Scott, K.C.M.G., O.B.E. (1887-1986).
The drawings online
A selection of the drawings can also be viewed on Collections Explorer, RAMM’s online database.
The exhibition Flower Power – Botanical illustrations from India (11 June to 11 September) is part of Naturally Inspired: RAMM’s season of botanicals, gardens and landscapes.