Hanging around in the Walker

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As regular visitors will realise, there are always small changes taking place within our galleries, even in the 'permanent' displays, as objects do occasionally get removed for loans or conservation treatment. An example is the painting 'Elaine' painted by Sophie Anderson, which is going to be included in the exhibition 'The Rise of Women Artists' at the Walker from 23 October 2009. Framing conservator Roy Irlam is using this opportunity to address particular areas of the painting's framework, as access to this painting has been difficult due to its high position on the gallery wall. You can see photos of the de-installation in our Moving stories Flickr set. Handling and transport technician Paula Frew explains just how this large painting was safely removed from display below.
two men in hard heights lifting a painting with ropes and pulleys

Installing 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' in the Walker

"The handling and transport team use specialised equipment for paintings at this height which include a block and tackle system used to elevate and lower paintings. Each block and tackle section is equipped to take a safe working load of 250kg which are suspended from a lifting strap (SWL 1000kgs) which is attached to a load bearing picture rail.

Another piece of equipment which is an old favourite of the team's goes by the fanciful name of 'Airwolf'. It's a gas operated hydraulic lift that enables technicians to access the heights needed to reach the galleries picture rails.

The most recent addition to the team's repertoire of equipment is an electrical hydraulic lift embellished with the title of 'Leonardo'. This machine takes the weight of one person and can be operated at its base or by the operator in the caged platform area at various heights to move around the gallery area. Unfortunately it doesn't go as high as the 'Airwolf' and is therefore restricted.

The Mobile Elevated Towers named 'Pulpit Towers' are mobile platforms that have replaced ladders due to the new ladder regulations and adhere to the new safety rulings.

The large maroon coloured machine is called the 'Sumner lift'. This machine has been specifically adapted to take a 500kg weight, having counterbalanced weights in the enclosed basket. The machine can access heavy paintings at particular heights on its forks. It works on a ratchet and geared system operated manually, preferably by someone who has eaten a lot of spinach!

The equipment has to be condition checked before use which takes time, so the team started at 7.30am to make headway before the Walker opened to the public at 10am. Once it opened we barricaded off half of the gallery space rather than closing it completely to the public. We found that the visitors were more interested in our operation than they were in the collections!

Before taking down 'Elaine' we removed the painting beneath it 'The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden' using the Sumner lift machine. The team then set up the block and tackle for 'Elaine' and removed it safely.

The painting 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' by Riviere has recently returned to the Walker after going out on loan to the British Museum for their 'Babylon' exhibition. We installed this painting in place of 'Elaine' using the block and tackle system, then re-installed 'The Expulsion of Adam and Eve...' beneath it and re-opened the remaining gallery space."