Whitworth Art Gallery behind-the-scenes tour

The Whitworth Art Gallery has recently undergone a £15 million development programme seeing it double in size and embrace Whitworth Park; with the inclusion of the landscape gallery, learning studio and the café in the trees. On the morning of 24rd March 2017, Dean Whiteside, Buildings and Operations Manager, gave the opportunity to TEaM members to have access to an ‘exclusive’ behind the scenes tour of this wonderful transformation.

The Whitworth is a place of research and academic collaboration and home to an extensive and eclectic collection of art and design of international significance. Dean began by explaining that in response to targets set by the University and external funding bodies, the building was designed to cut energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 10%.  Air conditioning and active chilling has been removed from the stores and galleries and has been replaced with mechanical ventilation and a conservation heating approach to regulate relative humidity, making the building warm in the summer and cool in the winter. So if you visit, make sure you dress for the season! Next, we went on to learn about how the new exhibition galleries use a programmable track lighting to deliver monitored cumulative lighting exposure for the objects on display, while light sensitive works in the collection are protected by a flexible system of lourves, blinds and carefully placed brise soleil.

As we made our way through the building, Dean pointed out the various ‘operational’ features, designed to blend into the fabric of the building, such as the full height loading bay window, the lift and the quarantine area. Next we went on to see the workshops where the Gallery Technicians assemble all the display plinths for the exhibitions and collections, art works are framed and mounted and conservation work is undertaken.

The tour party also got to see one of the three new gardens maintained by the Landscape & Sustainability Technician and Art Garden volunteers. The Whitworth is the only UK gallery to employ a Landscape & Sustainability Technician and part of their remit is to ‘raise awareness of wildlife and nature, and to connect our visitors with the importance of green space in an urban environment’.