Any effort of 'reconstruction' is limited by the impossibility of restoring something that has passed away. Ruskin at Walkley
is no exception: though based on documentary evidence, the project aims to be an exploratory act, not a window on the past.
The problems of method posed by 'reconstruction' are often illuminating. They include the following:
- The Victorian photographs of the gallery interior contain some works that are no longer part of the collection, for instance Andrea del Verrocchio’s The Madonna Adoring the Christ Child and William Small’s The Shipwreck. Of these two paintings, the first was sold to the National Gallery of Scotland in 1975; the second is simply missing. George H. Every’s The Captive is no longer in the collection, and its appearance in the image of the cottage interior is the only testament to its presence. These absences present a problem when the aim is to provide a virtual tour, but they are also instructive. We are reminded of the ways in which collections of art are unstable, even discontinuous.
- Ruskin’s watercolour Santa Maria della Spina, Pisa; East End appears in all three shots of the wooden extension. The differing angles suggest the photographs were taken at different times; but the work's omnipresence may equally indicate that the room was 'dressed' for the camera. Similarly, the precarious spread of unframed prints in the 'Interior' room suggests a temporary display, meant primarily for the camera. In this way, photography creates odd time-effects, mediating the collection in ways that prevent us from 're-visiting' the gallery on a typical day.