Here's the latest report from art historian Eleanor Beyer. Eleanor usually works in the British Museum's conservation and science department but has been visiting the paper conservation department up here in the National Conservation Centre. During her time at National Museums Liverpool she has had a look round our art galleries. Here's what she thought of the Lady Lever:
Coming from a much older museum I was curious to see how this worked, although there were still problems with the building, much of Lord Lever's forward thinking had paid off. For instance, with few windows the gallery has more room for hanging pictures and displaying objects. Lever was visually astute and the things he collected were visually attractive (like the soap adverts) and at the same time as being of academic interest. Much of the collection itself is relatively hardy - since ceramics and most nineteenth century paintings were mainly painted in durable materials - therefore if humidity levels fluctuate these types of objects can cope. However some more fragile collections have since had to be removed, such as works on paper and embroideries, and the walls in the main gallery are no longer black. The British Museum is a far larger museum, with an even more diverse collection, from ceramics to other more fragile objects like the mummies, and ancient wall paintings. The architects of the British Museum appear to have aspired to grandeur and style for the building: environmental control had yet to become a concern in the early nineteenth century!
On a basic level Lever's gallery showed me how one individual could make it happen - interest in design as well as providing a collection for everyone. Lever had one advantage - the gallery was built to house his collection, not to house future unknown objects."