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Keeping the Books
 - Caring for the Collections of Chester Beatty

8 February to 1 May 2005

Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) retired to Ireland in 1950. He brought with him what was claimed to be the largest and most important private collection in the world. By opening his Library to the public in 1954 and eventually leaving it in trust for the public benefit, Chester Beatty hoped to encourage a greater understanding and appreciation of art and culture for growing generations. This exhibition focuses on the vital role conservation and preservation play in ensuring that the collections continue to be accessible for future generations and describes the behind-the-scenes activities that make this possible.

Chester Beatty based his collecting policy on ‘Quality, quality, always the quality’, and he frequently refused to purchase items on grounds of poor condition. The majority of the collections are therefore in good condition. However, they are all vulnerable to the natural ageing process.

The objects on display in this exhibition are as diverse as Chester Beatty’s collections; some have already been conserved and others require urgent conservation. They include illuminated manuscripts, an embroidered Chinese dragon robe, Japanese scrolls, Egyptian papyri and Indian miniatures.