Month 22 (April 2013)

This month I have been mostly... Preparing for the project finale

With the Butler Project's final event coming up on Saturday 11th May, I’ve been busy identifying my highlights of the Samuel Butler Collection and writing the captions that will accompany the items in the new exhibition. When planning previous exhibitions, such as those on Evolution (March 2012) and Italy (January 2013), I selected items on the basis of their potential to illustrate part of an overall narrative relating to a particular aspect of Butler’s life or work. This time I’ve focused purely on the artefacts themselves – many of which are visually interesting, and some of which have been surprise discoveries from among the collection.

Autographed letter from George Bernard Shaw
Autograph letter from G.B. Shaw, 1915 (VIII/1/3d/2)

Autograph letters from the writers George Bernard Shaw and E.M. Forster will be displayed together with Butler’s earliest photographs (taken at art school and dating back to the mid-1860s), and Butler’s first edition copy of the Origin of Species alongside his sheep-brand and sandwich case. Original and previously unseen artworks (including Butler’s most famous painting, Family Prayers) and literary and musical manuscripts will also be on show. To demonstrate another important element of the Butler Project, I’m including information about and photographs of some of the fantastic conservation work that has been completed over the past two years – from specialized cleaning procedures and painstaking paper repairs to the latest digital preservation techniques.

Family Prayers oil painting
'Family Prayers', 1864

As well as making the necessary logistical arrangements and publicizing the event, I’ve helped to source images from the collection for our speakers to use in their illustrated talks. Assessing Butler’s role as a Victorian atheist and controversialist, Simon Heffer will refer to the books and other items featured in the Library exhibition, whilst Roger Robinson will discuss earlier archival material held at Shrewsbury School to create a picture of the young Sam Butler, who was a key member of the oldest cross-country club in the world. It promises to be a fascinating and entertaining afternoon! Everyone is welcome, and you can either email me to reserve seats and free afternoon tea or just turn up on the day. I hope to see you there!

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