September 13, 2012, by Dorothy Johnston
Displaying D.H. Lawrence
Residents and visitors to Nottinghamshire are enjoying a fortnight of activities and events related to D.H. Lawrence, featured as part of Broxtowe Borough Council’s annual Lawrence Festival, which was launched on Wednesday 5 September. The 1920s themed opening event included a preview of this year’s Festival exhibition, entitled ‘D.H. Lawrence Controversy on Canvas, The Warren Gallery, London, 1929′. Curated by staff at the D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre in Eastwood, this presents original size reproductions of all twenty-five paintings by Lawrence which prompted public complaint when first displayed in London in 1929. In a police raid on the Warren Gallery, thirteen of paintings were seized as obscene. The exhibition draws on material loaned from the extensive Lawrence Collections at the University, and the Festival launch itself provided an opportunity to recognize the partnership activities of the University and Broxtowe Borough Council over the last year.
The University’s own summer exhibition, The Many Lives of D. H. Lawrence, was extended to overlap with the Lawrence Festival but it will finally close on Sunday, 16 September. Over 5,000 visitors have so far attended this display in the Weston Gallery, at the University’s Lakeside Arts Centre. One final event based around The Many Lives is scheduled for Monday 17th September, as part of Eastwood’s Festival. Dr Andrew Harrison, Director of the D H Lawrence Research Centre and curator of The Many Lives, will introduce staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections who will deliver a workshop on the subject of Lawrence and the challenges of mounting a display of original archives and rare books.
Five major Lawrence exhibitions have been delivered in the Weston Gallery since it opened in 2001, all drawing on the rich holdings of the University’s nationally designated Lawrence Collections. Three of the displays were developed by academic colleagues, each pursuing a theme that revealed a different perspective on the Lawrence legacy.
Presenting literary papers and texts in public display brings many challenges, which have changed over the years since the first major UK exhibition on D.H. Lawrence at the University in 1960. Today, the gallery audience can range from people who have never heard of Lawrence or any of the controversies surrounding his life to those who have extensive knowledge of his life and the impact of his ideas. The workshop will explore how curators try to find a balance between the conflicting pressures of selecting a coherent range of material and making the display enjoyable and informative for a varied audience. The demands of the physical artefact and the role of digital technology in enriching gallery displays of literary archives will be discussed.
For more details about the Weston Gallery event, and information about how to participate in Eastwood’s Lawrence fortnight (6th-8th September), see the online Festival programme.
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