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The ceiling of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall is home to 162 hand illustrated panels which date back to the museum’s opening in 1881.

As part of its redevelopment, Purcell led careful work to clean and conserve some of the panels that have become accessible at the southern end of the hall as part of our re-presentation project.

A close examination of the ceiling showed that some details originally featured silver, as well as gold leaf. As silver leaf doesn't last as long, it had been painted over in ochre colour at a previous phase of repairs.

The panel’s botanical illustrations showcase Earth's abundance of plants. Among them are illustrations of fruit trees such as lemon and pear, drugs such as tobacco and opium poppies, and garden ornamentals such as rhododendrons, irises and sunflowers.

Cracks in the ceiling's painted plaster were repaired and flaking paintwork has been re-adhered to the substrate using a technique developed by Hare & Humphreys conservators using Japanese tissue, solvent and a reversible consolidant.

The illustrations have been returned to their former glory after weeks of careful restoration, ready to look down upon the reinterpreted Hintze Hall, due to complete in 2017.

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