Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pollock's Toy Museum Update

From Paul Weighall today, comes this exciting update on what's going on at Pollock's Toy Museum:
Hi All,

I thought some of you may be interested in what we are doing at Pollock's toy theatres...

About 15:00 today Hugo Brown and I finished examining and cataloguing every original toy theatre printing plate stored here. There are many hundreds of these and over the past 6 months we have spent a number of Saturdays sitting in a basement for hours cleaning off decades of old packaging and trying to read 150 year old imprints through various levels and types of protective coating. Sadly many of the plates were made of zinc and a lot of these have been corroded beyond use but the rest, in fact the majority, are copper and have survived very well. Hugo is updating our database of these plates and will no doubt add this interesting list to his website anon.

The plates were all hand engraved of course and seeing the original source for the familiar, and some not so familiar, scenes from the plays has been a real treat. We now plan to start slowly cleaning and re-protecting them over the next 2 years or so. The larger plates used to print whole theatre fronts are particular exciting and the largest is a hand engraved copper for an entire 4d Redington proscenium. Hugo has also located the earliest Green theatre front plate engraved by his great, great, great, grandfather. Given time we hope to make some real prints from these and where we have good quality plates of characters, scenes wings etc,. we will no doubt try and get some new impressions from the copper. As far as we are aware this plate collection is the largest in the world.

The next and much larger task is to collate, sort and catalogue the tens of thousands of original printed sheets that wound up at Pollocks as we acquired each major publisher's catalogue and stock over the years. Hugo and I are maybe just 20% of our way through the entire collection and in a year or two we think we will have completed cataloguing all the sheets we have currently. Where we have duplicates we select the best examples as masters and we store one of each different print impression in colour and plain where we have them both. We intend to scan and archive all these and make them available for study at the museum. The Green publication files alone now take up about 1 meter of shelf space. As far as we are aware the sheet collection is the largest in the world and much of it was very generously donated by John Fawdry, who had kept it in France until this summer when it was merged with the vast collection already at the museum.

We have also collated and sorted about 125 different play texts, e.g. the written words for the plays produced in little books and that collection is now being catalogued and stored with the sheet collection for the relevant plays. These will also be scanned and made available for study.

If and when I next surface with any eyesight left blinking into the daylight from examining about a zillion paper toy theatre sheets then I will keep you all informed of our progress in preserving and charting the archaeology of toy theatre.

Paul J. Weighell
Pollock's Toy Theatres Limited
London