As a year of closure stretches ahead of us, it’s easy to feel down about the boards and darkness that are replacing the spectacular views across the Museum court. Our regular visitors have certainly expressed sadness and disappointment that they will be deprived of their favourite museum for a year. But we have to remember that it will all be worth it in the end: the restoration project will return the roof to its full Victorian glory and give the building below the respect it deserves.
During a trial last year one third of the roof’s glass tiles were delicately cleaned, restored and resealed in an attempt to keep the rain out. This test proved successful – the rain drops ceased and the light flooded in. The project to repair the whole roof was given the go ahead.
A close-up of the glass roof tiles before the trial cleaning project
And sparklingly clean afterwards!
At the same time, staff were treated to a guided tour of the roof itself. We scaled ladders and scaffolding high up in the south aisle of the Museum. It was remarkable to see that the careful details of carved screws and painted beams are as beautiful and painstaking at the very peak of the roof as they are at eye level, down in the courts below. It made us all appreciate the effort and care that the Victorian architects, engineers and artists put into creating this masterpiece in the mid-19th century.
The pinnacle of the south aisle’s roof
Up close, it was also easy to see dust on the metalwork and the ancient grime that has steadily built up on the glass tiles. We all wanted this faded glamour to be returned to its original glory; there was no denying it, the roof works were an essential project.
The detailed metal work that adorns the roof
Although we’ll miss the specimens and the stunning architecture during this closure year, the roof restoration will ensure that the Museum is back to its original best for another 150 years… and hopefully many more after that.
Rachel Parle, Education Officer