On Friday 11th November CHICC photographers Gwen and Tony visited the D-Day Museum to view the Overlord Embroidery and design a workflow for its digitisation next year. The D-Day Museum has been awarded £4 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable Portsmouth City Council, with support of the Portsmouth D-Day Museum Trust, to create an international museum to tell the story of D-Day in the 21st Century. The digitisation of Overlord Embroidery will form content for the improved galleries that will tell the story of D-Day – from the planning and build up to the day itself – using objects, interactive material and the perspectives of people who were alive at the time.
We arrived a little early for our meeting at the D-Day Museum, which gave us time to see the promenade and the Southsea Rock Gardens which are within 5 minutes walking distance to the museum.
Upon arrival at the D-Day Museum we had the privilege of a private view of the Overlord Embroidery, before the Museum opened to visitors. I was immediately struck by the beauty of the Overlord Embroidery, by the brilliance of the colours of the tapestry and the stunning visual effect of the appliqué (my iPhone photos do not do it justice!).
The Overlord Embroidery was inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, commissioned by Lord Dulverton, late head of Wills tobacco family, to show the reality of war – not to glorify it. Sandra Lawrence, aged 21, was appointed to produce the original watercolours on which the embroidery is based. The Ministry of Defence provided historical support and advice on how Operation Overlord could be represented in picture form. The Royal School of Needlework produced the embroidery from Sandra Lawrence’s watercolour designs at a total cost of £36,000. The original watercolours were presented to the US Dept. of Defense by the Sir David Wills Charitable Trust in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day and are now on display in the Pentagon in Washington DC.
The embroidery is truly magnificent, it is 83 metres long, which is displayed across 34 panels, each panel 2.4 x 0.9 metres in size. More than 50 different materials were used during the making of the embroidery – including 320 metres of cording used to edge parts of the design, it is these cording details which gives the embroidery an uncanny 3D effect. This is an important visual feature of the embroidery, and we will design our digitisation lighting methodology to mimic the museum lighting which captures the highlights of the cording to very striking effect. Designing a bespoke lighting methodology, rather than using a standard flat copy style of lighting, will also ensure that the digital images are sympathetic and complementary to the displayed physical object, allowing digital and physical interpretation to comfortably together.
It took 20 embroiderers and five apprentices five years to complete the embroidery, and this is evident in the development of style and techniques used, as you walk along the embroidery the developments in process and methods are clearly visible. Digitisation will take approximately seven days of digital capture on site at the D-Day Museum, with five days post-capture processing and digital stitching back in the studio. We will be documenting our own methods and processes for digitisation both here on the blog, and with a range of engagement activities at the time of digitisation in March 2017.
As soon as our meeting was over we took one last breath of fresh sea air before we began our long journey back to Manchester. I have to say, the train station at Portsmouth Harbour has one of the best parting views of any city that I have ever seen.
On the way back to Manchester we discovered an interesting Rylands link to the local area. John Rylands purchased a property, Corston House, on the Isle of Wight in 1882 (a stones throw across The Solent from Portsmouth) and was a benefactor on the island.
There is a steam railway museum on the island (which the D-Day Museum’s very own staff member, Andy is involved with) which is housed in the old gasworks which were built by John Rylands! After John Rylands’ death in 1888, Mrs Rylands converted Corston House in to a rest home for ministers.
Keep your eye on the blog for more updates on the Overlord Embroidery project in the Spring of 2017.