‘Skegness is SO bracing’ – back to its bracing best

There are now only three weeks left to see our summer holiday exhibition Hints for Holidays, which showcases some stunning examples from our poster collections.

John Hassall’s ‘Skegness is SO Bracing’ is one of the most iconic British railway posters and has been a popular image since its first publication by the Great Northern Railway in 1908. It has been repeatedly reproduced, reworked and parodied, and the Jolly Fisherman, featured in the poster, has become an icon of his hometown, Skegness.

We have one of the originals, which is a large 2.8m by 1.4m. It had been rolled in store since its purchase in 1992 and was in poor condition. It had become very brittle with age and received some unsatisfactory restoration before being acquired by the museum, so it wasn’t in suitable condition to be shown. When we decided we wanted to display the poster in the Hints for Holidays exhibition, we contacted local conservator Ruth Mathias to see if she could help.

Skegness is SO Bracing, GNR, 1908. Before conservation

Skegness is SO Bracing, detail, before treatment

Skegness is SO Bracing, detail, before treatment

Ruth examined the poster and found that the acid in the paper had caused it to become brittle, and that some of the surface was starting to flake away (this is called delamination). The old repairs needed removing and new ones adding in with correctly toned paper to disguise the repairs.

The poster had been backed onto linen and ideally Ruth wanted to remove this. But initial investigations showed that this wouldn’t be possible due to the type of adhesive that had been used and the fragility of the paper from which the poster itself is made.

Skegness is SO Bracing, detail, after treatment

Skegness is SO Bracing, detail, after treatment

Skegness is SO Bracing, detail, after treatment

Nonetheless, Ruth was able to clean and repair Skegness, replacing the old repairs much more sensitively and consolidating the surface (to stop any more flaking). The Jolly Fisherman has been given a new lease of life.

Hints for Holidays run until 2 September 2012.

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