Heritage Open Days – What’s In The Box?

Part 4: E. H. Shepard’s Paint Box

In our fourth ‘What’s In The Box?’ blog for this year’s Heritage Open Days Festival, we are continuing the theme of ‘Creativity Unwrapped’ and taking a look at the wooden paint box which belonged to the illustrator E. H. Shepard (Ref: ST/9/2).

If you were lucky enough to come to our ‘Beyond the Bear’ Heritage Open Day event a few days ago you would have had the opportunity to look at this paint box in person. We understand and appreciate that not everyone can make the journey to campus, so we have chosen to explore this object in more detail in this blog.

Logo on inside of the paint box lid.

This large square wooden box designed to contain art materials, has the logo of Newman, 24 Soho Square, London on the inside of the lid. The top layer of the box includes twenty-four blocks of watercolour paint arranged in a wooden tray with labelled colours, a small white porcelain palette with three recesses for mixing paint (labelled James Newman on bottom), a circular compartment to stand a small jar of water in, and a compartment across the front of the box containing a brush with a wrapped handle, two pencils and a palette knife. 

Items removed from the paint box

Two additional compartments can be found, underneath the palette, and underneath the tray of paints. The wooden shelf can be removed using tags of ribbon at either end. The compartment underneath the pallet is empty, but the one under the tray of paints contains two wooden shelves, each one with three circular insets on the shelf to support white porcelain dishes (six in total) for mixing paint. On the outside of the bottom of the box there is a layer of green felt. 

Items in the paint box are padded with acid free tissue paper and the paint blocks are covered with a sheet of clear archival polyester to help protect them. This time lapse video shows how the various components are unpacked.  

Video link

We never forgot how lucky we are to be able to look after such wonderful objects as these, and always do everything we can to look after them for generations to come. Collections care and preventative conservation are integral to our work and our fifth and final blog looks at some of the simple steps that can be taken to help protect the items in our care.

If this glimpse of E. H. Shepard’s paint box has inspired you to find out more about our collections or if you are interested in seeing any of the items we have featured in person do get in touch as we would be delighted to book you in to visit our research room, just email archives@surrey.ac.uk or check out the information on our website https://www.surrey.ac.uk/library/archives-and-special-collections or https://www.instagram.com/uniofsurreyarchives/