Bentham’s Day Out
By Subhadra Das, on 9 November 2012
On Thursday November 8th, 2012, the UCL Teaching and Research Collections team arranged for the Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham to be removed from its box for cleaning. These pictures document adventures and experiences on the day.
Council of War. When it comes to doing anything to what is arguably UCL’s most iconic object, it is best to have a plan.
Bits and pieces. Alongside the Auto-Icon itself are a number of Bentham’s personal effects, including a wooden cane, which he called ‘Dapple’.
Ready to go!
Out of the box.
Off we go…
Jeremy gets a lift.
Jeremy takes in his new surroundings.
Even more cleaning…
A conservator’s eye view…
Conservators make detailed notes of the condition of museum objects. Every part of the object, including any evidence of damage or change, like the nail hole in the leg of this chair, tell the story of the object and contribute to plans for its future care.
The Auto-Icon is one of the most popular attractions at UCL. In the four hours it was available to view by the public, it received over 350 visitors (almost all of whom had their picture taken with it).
Cleaning the box.
There would be no point in cleaning the Auto-Icon and other objects in the box without cleaning the box itself. Here, Curator Nick Booth leaves no stone unturned in the fight against dirt and dust, with the final result that the box is…
Bentham’s (Paper) Head in the box.
For a while, the poorly taxidermied head of Jeremy Bentham (which had been intended to be part of the Auto-Icon) was stored in the box along with the rest of the body. This is an homage to that method of display, using a paper lantern head of Bentham, part of a major fund-raising initiative being run by UCL.
This is a purpose-built solution to the very particular problem of transporting a very particular object.
Final photo call.
Back we go…
Good as new!
Checking light levels.
Regular cleaning is only one part of a program for the long-term care of the Auto-Icon. We will also be monitoring the environment of the box for light (being measured here), temperature, relative humidity and pests.
Team Clean Bentham
All smiles… until we do it again next year!