After the Flood


In March 2018 some of Gallery Oldham’s much loved art collection was affected by flooding from a burst pipe; at the time Gallery staff worked together with fire crews on a rescue operation, quickly identifying the source and removing artworks from danger. Water was drained from the art store and prints, watercolours and oil paintings were dried out carefully in the gallery spaces. Staff training and quick-thinking, as well as help from a network of other galleries and museums in the area, assisted with the efficient salvage operation.


But after the flood water recedes, how do you reverse the damage caused by gallons of water?  The answer, hundreds of painstaking hours of conservation at offsite studios. Since the flood, there has been an ongoing programme of work to repair the damaged pieces funded by the insurers. It is hugely time-consuming work; so far over 40 works have been conserved. Katie Cavanagh has led the project, ‘Arranging the conservation of the paintings has been so rewarding. When a damaged painting has been cleaned, restored and re-varnished it looks so much brighter with more detail visible.’


Last week we travelled to Sheffield to drop off three works of art The Spanish Women and Child, Boat Adrift and Seeking Sanctuary. Over the next few months  we will be giving you a behind-the-scenes peek into the transformation process as we follow their conservation journey at Critchlow & Kukkonen.




Once they have been reframed, some of these conserved works will be on display in the new permanent art gallery when OMA opens in 2021. Here, are some of the before and after shots taken of At the First Touch of Winter by V. Prinsep, can you spot the difference?