Tag Archives: conservation lighting

Tudors to Windsors: Royal British Portraits at the Maritime Museum now open

Our latest project: Royal British Portraits: Tudors to Windsors at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has opened to very positive reviews. The Evening Standard‘s reviewer gave the exhibition four stars and described it as an unsurpassed way of conveying what actually happened over half a millennium, which is quite a feat for a single exhibition. The space has been thoughtfully divided into spaces for each of the major royal dynasties that have shaped our history from the Tudors to our present royal family, the Windsors.

The Royal Central website described the experience as carefully curated & beautifully displayed, with lighting that is soft and unobtrusive: quite a complex task when were faced with monumental works such as the iconic portrait of Queen Victoria in full Empire pomp that occupied an entire wall, down to the tiniest of portrait miniatures, carried across Europe to contract royal marriages as a diplomatic tool as much as a love match.

Due to the sensitive nature of many of the works, including the most fragile of early photographic prints and miniatures painted on playing cards, our biggest challenge was to create a lighting environment that could give each piece an equal weight and clarity despite the enormous range of sizes, materials, colours and even framing in use throughout the exhibition: this included lighting a light box to assist in viewing contrast and coping with the most reflective of modern photographic prints that we have yet encountered.

Each section of the exhibition was given its own colour theme to give a visual key to the changes of dynasty, and as each colour responded to light in a different way, we had to carefully balance each section so that the visual appearance remained consistent while keeping the light levels to conservation-suitable levels; the full range of the museum’s lighting stock was pressed into service for the scheme and to protect some of the most delicate miniatures, a responsive lighting system was developed for two key display cases that respond to visitor presence, so that the miniatures are only lit when necessary.