Salford Scholars Team at The Manchester Contemporary 2023. Photography by Sam Parker.

Rowan Pritchard Reflects On Two Years With The Collection

Hi, I’m Rowan and I have been working with the Art Collection for just over two years as a Team Assistant. Now in December 2023, my time as Team Assistant comes to an end.

Trying to sum up the last two years in just one blog post is quite a challenge. Here are just a few ways I’ve tried to summarise my time working with the Art Collection:

  • Over 400 meetings
  • Over 20 exhibitions
  • 41 (now 42!) blog posts
  • 12 major collaborative projects 
  • 1 entire store move

(plus an incalculable number of cups of coffee!)

Here are some snapshots that capture just a few of my standout moments from working with the Collection.

Artist Mollie Balshaw installing their work ‘Depression Day Realness’ 2021 for Theirs, Yours, Ours.
Installing Mollie Balshaw’s work Depression Day Realness, 2021 for Theirs, Yours, Ours.

The many exhibition installs and take-downs I had the opportunity to work on, particularly installing Mollie Balshaw’s garden chair self-portrait for Theirs, Yours, Ours in the New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery back in 2022. I am still quite envious of those flaming socks.

Condition checking prints in the Art Store.
Cleaning the back of a work on canvas with the Museum Vac.

I have loved learning about the nerdier side of collections care, from the agents of deterioration to environmental monitoring and the museum vac. Even a visit from the air quality control man was thrilling in the moment.

A screenshot from Albert Adams: In Context, showing cross sections of paint layers.
 An expressive etching, depicting faceless figures outlined in black against a natural yellowed background.
Albert Adams, Deposition, 1955, Print. Image Courtesy the Artist’s Estate. Photography by Museums Photography North West.

Learning all about Albert Adams through the Albert Adams: In Context project, and digitising so many of his works that they began to haunt my dreams. Alexandra Lawson’s presentation during the symposium diving into her conservation work on one of Adams’ paintings was truly fascinating, and I particularly loved seeing the microscopic layers of paint. And Greg Thorpe’s beautiful blog exploring Adams’ life and work through objects from his archive will stick with me for a long time.

Young people from Our Time, Our Place visit the art store. Photography by Gwen Riley Jones.
Installation view: Some Days I Feel Triangle at New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery. Photography by Gwen Riley Jones.

Working with Gwen Riley Jones and the young people she connected with through Action for Conservation and Salford Youth Service. I was blown away by their confidence and generosity when sharing their thoughts about artwork. They have taught me to be more open-minded in the way I think about artwork.

Accepting the Collection’s 2021 Green Impact platinum award. Courtesy the Enviromental Sustainability Team.
Myself and Gael Dundas from Imperial War Museums at Art Action >> Climate Crisis.

Going Green! Being the Collection’s Green Champion over the last two years has been really rewarding. From stiffy bags (the silver reusable alternative to bubble wrap!) to Hybrid Futures, working with sustainability underpinning what we do, and seeing that work recognised through programmes like Green Impact and the recent Green Gown awards has been fab. Earlier this year I attended Art Action >> Climate Crisis, a two-day conference held by the Gallery Climate Coalition and Whitechapel Gallery; seeing and hearing from the network of people within our sector and beyond who care passionately about the environment and are taking steps to protect it has restored my faith a little.

Installation View: Visibilities at New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery, 2023. Photography by Jules Lister.

It would be completely remiss of me not to talk about the amazing curatorial opportunities I’ve been entrusted with over the past year. Being invited to curate a collection exhibition for the New Adelphi Gallery was a huge honour. It was a daunting prospect choosing from all of the artwork in the Collection, but the work I chose for Visibilities I hope reflects just a little of the brilliant work the Collection has been doing over the past ten years.

Discussing the work selected for Salford Scholars at The Manchester Contemporary. Photography by Sam Parker.
Salford Scholars Team at The Manchester Contemporary 2023. Photography by Sam Parker.

Finally, I’ve still not completed processing Salford Scholars at The Manchester Contemporary, where months of planning, studio visits, and working closely with our partners at Castlefield Gallery culminated in one whirlwind of a weekend. I am so pleased with our presentation at the Contemporary, and working with all of the artists and partners involved was a treat. The Graduate Scholarship Programme really is something to shout about, with over 50 scholarships offered to graduates over the last ten years.

Installation View: Salford Scholars at The Manchester Contemporary 2023. Photography by Sam Parker.
Taking down Salford Scholars at The Manchester Contemporary 2023.

It would be impossible to touch on all of the things I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with while working in the Collection, and I think trying to capture all of the ways it has impacted me is futile as I won’t be able to do it justice. Working with Steph and Lindsay has been an absolute joy and I want to thank them both for being so generous in sharing their expertise and experience with me. I am excited for Sam Parker, the new team assistant who has joined the Collection as a fresh 2023 Graduate just embarking on this journey. Best of luck Sam! You can read his introductory blog and get to know more about him here.

Rowan Pritchard

Dec 2023