Let’s go down to the Research Centre

Behind the scenes

The imminent reopening of the Gallery means our time at the Museum draws to a close, and as another chapter of our wandering ends, we wanted to document the work we’ve been doing in this space.


Since mid-2014 the Gallery has used the Documentary Research Centre on the third floor of Canterbury Museum for a host of tasks. We are enormously grateful to Anthony Wright and his team at the Museum for making this space available to us.

The entire Gallery Library and Archives collections are currently stored at the Museum and you can visit by appointment. The curators have been using the Library and Archives extensively in the last year as they research and write for the collection based reopening exhibitions. The Archives also need to be accessible for the upkeep of our artist files.

This space has also been used by our visitor services team, who have been working on various projects while the Gallery has been closed, including updating copyright for the bulk of the Gallery’s collection. Michael Purdie has researched around 2,500 works from the collection to date them more accurately. Airi Hashimoto has assisted librarian Tim Jones in making all the Gallery's historical exhibition information available online, as well as applying the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus vocabulary to the works in the collection so they can be searched by subject category.

The Gallery photographer had a studio set up at the Museum and the Gallery technicians have been working on matting, framing and carpentry in preparation for reopening. Let us take you behind the scenes at the Museum to find out what our team have been doing.


In the foreground of this image, workshop gallery technician Martin Young is working on storage crates for artwork. Martin is a skilled woodworker and makes plinths, crates for storing and shipping artwork and other gallery storage and display solutions.

In the background on the right, exhibitions gallery technician Scott Jackson is re-framing a recently purchased Colin McCahon work.

One the left visitor host Kate MacShane is researching copyright. The visitor services team used the time while we have been closed to the public to update copyright for the Gallery collection. Kate took on the task of tracking down the most elusive copyright holders. She followed up hundreds of works where the copyright holder was unknown and proved remarkably resourceful in her detective work, chasing leads around the world. The persistence of the visitor services team has paid off, with 90% of our collection available to view online and images copyright-cleared for Gallery use.


While the Gallery has been closed to the public we have taken the opportunity to re-photograph many of the works in the collection. This is the photographic studio set up at the Museum. In the foreground is the copy stand, used to shoot overhead views of works of art. Two lights are set up at 45 degrees either side, to bathe the artwork in even light. The camera has been removed from its mount, however you can see a Max Gimblett work on paper has just been photographed. The artwork is weighted down with small leather bags filled with lead shot and you can also see a little calibration chart for accurate colour matching. The images taken of the Gimblett work are on the two computer monitors awaiting post-production. Gallery photographer John Collie writes on photographing works of art in Bulletin 179. Since this photograph was taken John has moved back into his studio space at the Gallery, so this set up no longer exists.


Gallery librarian and archivist Tim Jones is seated in the Special Collections Room in the background of this image. The artists’ files from the Gallery archives are stored in this room. This article talks about some recent research projects using the Gallery Archives. The Library and Archives will be moved back to the Gallery in early 2016.

In the foreground visitor host Deborah Hyde is sewing padded corners for storing paintings. We go all out when it comes to protecting our works of art, so many of our paintings get these nifty little couture corner protectors to keep them safe in storage.


Gallery technician Scott Jackson is framing a Colin McCahon work entitled Canterbury Landscape. He notes that this particular project was particularly painstaking, as it was a shadow frame, where the artwork is placed in the frame with a border of clear space around it. Scott told me that he thinks the new frame for the McCahon is one of the best frames he has seen made in his time at the Gallery: ‘It’s a total gem, a really nice frame.’ Scott has been using the workshop in the museum to reframe and mat a number of works from the collection while the Gallery has been closed. You can read more about this reframing project here.

To make an appointment to visit the Gallery library and archives phone librarian and archivist Tim Jones on (03) 941 7394 or email library@christchurchartgallery.org.nz