MA Conservation & Restoration of Cultural Heritage
MA Museum & Heritage Studies
At the University Library of the UvA, there are two stained glass windows located at the C wing staircase. The position of the stained glass windows allows for very little natural light to pass through the coloured glass to illuminate the design. The windows have black stains which could either be dirt since they have never been cleaned, or an intentional part of the design. Now that the university library is moving, the question arises what to do with these windows. Should they remain where they are, or potentially be moved to the new library?
Peter van Reen, 1929
“Zich Laven aan de Bron der Wetenschap, Het Onderzoek van Het Kleine en van Het Grote”
Fik Abbing, 1928
“Een Leven Lang Leren”
How might we raise awareness about the stained glass windows at the university library for UvA students and staff members so that they get the attention they deserve?
In order to obtain relevant information from the students and staff that would encounter the windows the most, we created an online survey with a physical flier, sending them to classmates, library staff, and hanging them in a majority of the humanities department University buildings. The survey proved to be instrumental in guiding our understanding of how individuals interact with the windows, on what frequency, as well as offering valuable insights on community interest in seeing better attention drawn to the windows. We were able to obtain a total of 51 responses to our survey which we believe to be a good foundation for future research and provided us with information which proved to be invaluable in our research. The most important outcomes are presented below.
According to the survey data we collected, it is clear that the vast majority of the responses believe that there is a significant cultural or value of heritage the windows bring to the library, despite the vast majority of responses indicating that they did not know the windows existed. This indicates that perhaps one of the best options for the windows would be to find a way to bring a greater level of attention to them. There are a couple different methods we believe would work to achieve this goal:
1. Conservation According to our research, the darkening on and around the leading of the glass panes are almost certainly intentional shading as desired by the artists. However, it also appears that in the near-100 years that they have been in place, the glass may not have ever been cleaned. While the bulk of the darkening may have been intentional, some maintenance on the windows might be desirable. We recommend to have trained glass conservators investigate the windows to create a condition report and potentially carry out any treatments.
2. Spotlights Putting a spotlight on the artworks from the outside would do wonders to draw attention to the glass from the inside and provide the light that it is otherwise lacking from within the courtyard it resides over. The windows are in a stairwell that sits on top of a hallway, meaning there is a roof located under the windows - not a walkway. With this in mind, the installation of spotlights either on the roof of the hallway or along the opposing wall would provide direct light onto the glass. With the continued development of technology, spotlight bulbs that mimic the spectrum of light provided by the sun could be installed to instill a sense of radiance the pieces were meant to portray. These could theoretically be installed with a timer and solar panels to ensure the windows are only lit during operating hours and in the most energy-effecient manner as possible.
Having completed the research and gathered the generalized opinions of the relevant audience, we believe that the project is poised for future iterations to pick up where we left off. We believe that the timing is perfect for an event to be centered arounf the stained glass windows for their 100-year anniversary in 2028 and 2029 which would bring much-needed attention to these otherwise largely neglected artworks. Such an event would also serve to bring attention to the role of the University's involvement in the community.