10
Jun/08
2

Willis’s Powder Battery Displays

Detail of one of the plans showing the date an early amendment: 23rd February 1891

Detail of one of the plans showing the date an early amendment: 23rd February 1891

When Richard Desoiza of the Let’s Go Rock and Fortress Project was given a treasure trove of eleven 19th Century Royal Engineer Plans for Willis’s Powder Battery, he was quick to appreciate their value as display material in the new venue.
He called Angela and asked her to have them scanned and mounted on boards as we had done with previous display materials in the World War II Tunnels. After giving her a tour of the huge Powder Battery, and explaining the clever 19th Century methods of fire prevention he entrusted her with the valuable documents then and there.

Detail of part of a plan showing the amendments on with brown paper tapes

Detail of part of a plan showing the amendments on with brown paper tapes

The hand drawn documents were in a delicate condition, their large size, 1 meter by 70cm, and the many additions that had been pasted onto them over the years meant they needed very careful handling.  Angela was not happy with the idea of putting them through a rotary scanner, although there were one or two of these available on the Rock. Richard had already taken digital photographs of the plans but even with a good camera, the definition was not suitable for reproduction and display. After extensive research it was discovered that the Imperial War Museum in London had the facilities available for the job.
Angela immediately booked the flights combining this trip to the Museum with visits to her cousin in London and friends near Gatwick, keeping the costs of travel and accommodation to a minimum and splitting these with the client. Effectively subsidising the valuable heritage work Richard carries out with very little, if any state funding.

One of the plans before scanning

One of the plans before scanning

The plans were packed very carefully for their flight to London, and never left her sight at any time. Indeed, part of the agreement with the Imperial War Museum was that she should stay on the premises at all times while the plans were being scanned to comply with their insurance policies.
Richard Bayford, the manager of the Photo Unit was very helpful in scheduling time in their busy programme to facilitate this unusual request. A whole day was set aside and detailed instructions provided on how to find the Photo Unit in the sprawling War Museum buildings.

Damon Cleary

Damon Cleary, the technician digitising the plans.

After delivering the documents to technician Damon Cleary, and inspecting the equipment, which comprised of a Betterlight Super 8K scan back fitted to a DeVere 10×8 enlarger chassis over a flat bed where the documents were fixed under glass and extremely high powered lights. Museum photographer Greg Smith took the ‘in progress’ shots featured on this page.

Richard Brayford and Angela in attendance during the procedure

Richard Brayford and Angela in attendance during the procedure

The process did indeed take the whole day. But Angela was never bored, Richard Bayford gave her a tour of the Photo Unit, showing off many wonderful old Wartime Posters, all of which had been photographed for posterity and either stored or put on display. She also learned that a very high number of exhibits in the Museum are replicas constructed in-house, as the original articles are too precious to be submitted to the glare of the lights in the display areas.

After an excellent lunch in the Museum’s restaurant it was arranged that Angela should have free entry into the then current, temporary exhibition on Ian Flemming featuring many of the articles used in the production of the Bond films as well as detailing the links between Flemming and MI5.
Finally, just after 5.00pm Greg handed over the DVD containing the high resolution scans. These were then brought back to Gibraltar where Angela made some fine adjustments to the images, mainly straightening the files. This in itself took quite a while due to the size of the scans.
The completed images were then printed on durable, water resistant material using high quality inks and then laminated onto 10mm pvc boards. Previous displays of this quality had fared well in the damp conditions found underground in the World War II Tunnels.
The new display boards were installed at the Powder Battery and provide a fascinating insight for visitors as to building methods from generations ago, adding value to this new Tourism initiative.

Let’s Go Rock & Fortress Project
This link takes you to an external site: http://www.rockandfortress.com the 360 panorama inside the Rock shows the previous displays prepared by EuropeAxess Media.

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Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Pete
    4:41 pm on November 12th, 2009

    Facinating the effort that goes into digitising an old document, but well worth the investment. In theory those plans will now be preserved in the cloud along with the rest of human knowledge for a very long time.

    • Angela
      5:26 am on November 14th, 2009

      Surprisingly, the Imperial War Museum were not interested in keeping copies of the plans. Their remit is to deal with the first and second world Wars, the museum was founded during the First World War in 1917 and intended as a record of the war effort and sacrifice of Britain and her Empire. The Rock and Fortress plans were therefore too old for them!

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