The Meaning of (Conserving) Relativity

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Einstein’s book and photograph came to us from a client looking to preserve and display them permanently. Fresh from a sale at Christie’s, Einstein at 50, a signed photograph, and The Meaning of Relativity: Authorial Presentation Copy, inscribed, were incredible finds, both historical and scarce. The result of their treatment is a beautiful shadowbox displaying them on either side of a digital reproduction of the title page of the book, creating a visual story.

Autographed copy of “The Meaning of Relativity.” Original signature by Albert Einstein in 1954.

Autographed copy of “The Meaning of Relativity.” Original signature by Albert Einstein in 1954.

Black & white photo of Albert Einstein from 1929.

Black & white photo of Albert Einstein from 1929.

To begin, our expert framers from our Framing & Display Department met with the client to discuss their expectations. The client came to The Conservation Center wanting us to come up with a design that worked both practically and aesthetically, without strict parameters. The only requirement was that the inscription on the first page of The Meaning of Relativity was visible, ideally within a shadowbox.

Diagram of custom book bracket design that was fabricated in acrylic.

Diagram of custom book bracket design that was fabricated in acrylic.

This was an unusual project for the team, as they were presented with the challenge of securely showing the signature in the book, along with a matted photograph and a reproduction of the title page. Our framer Kelly Reynolds decided to design a series of acrylic brackets to hold the book in place. “I [had] to create platforms underneath the book to work against gravity,” she said, “because it’s dimensional.”

Brackets and supports in place.

Brackets and supports in place.

Positioning and adjusting the placement.

Positioning and adjusting the placement.

Fastening the sliding bracket to secure the book.

Fastening the sliding bracket to secure the book.

Once the book was secured, Kelly cut out the places for the photos, then covered them in neutral fabric for texture to create an engaged mat.

All elements secure and ready to fit in the frame.

All elements secure and ready to fit in the frame.

The frame itself is a finished close corner satin in black maple, eliminating a visual seam, and covered in UV anti-reflective museum glass.

The shadow box frame provides a protective encasement.

The shadow box frame provides a protective encasement.

“The behind the scenes structure was very complex,” said Kelly. “To make it look invisible, there’s a lot going on behind it.”

The finished piece, ready to hang.

The finished piece, ready to hang.

The provenance was preserved for reference as well, affixed to the back of the frame. Regardless of the relativity of time, these pieces will be protected in their archival frame for years to come.

The reverse, including encapsulated provenance for the items inside.

The reverse, including encapsulated provenance for the items inside.

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