Last year I was able to undertake a garage conversion in order to set up my dedicated private conservation working space. The project was finished around May 2016, so I have been using the space for nearly a year now, and here are the results!..
It has been a considerable time since I last posted anything, so thought an update was one overdue!
Since starting my part-time post at Bethlem Museum in October 2014, just over two years ago, I have had some great opportunities for continued professional development (CPD). I attended a two day course at The London Metropolitan Archives, aimed at teaching flat works paper conservators basic book conservation techniques. I also attended the ICON book and paper group conference, ‘Adapt & Evolve’, in April 2015, which was a three day conference focusing on East Asian materials and techniques in Western conservation. Through the London Museums Regional Development team I have been on several training days including managing archives, pest monitoring and art handling.
I also regularly attend the lectures and events that the IPCG organise. These have included at trip to the London Metropolitan Archives to learn about ‘The Great Parchment Project’, lectures about techniques for washing paper, treating wallpaper, and a large scale team project to conserve ten huge 19th century cartoon panels by the artist Daniel Maclise.
This year a small group of my peers and I also began a skills exchange group. The group consists of three book conservators and three paper conservators, teaching each other in order to expand our knowledge and skill set.
Upcoming events include a day trip to the British Museum to see their brand new conservation Western studio and facilities, and I am hoping to attend the ‘Gels in Conservation’ conference in October 2017 organised by IAP in association with Tate, as well as other training events I have my eye on!
It’s been quite some time since I last posted anything, after returning to London from Canada, a little over a year ago, things were pretty busy! I secured a contract role at The National Archives, and gained invaluable experience in digitisation work whilst there. In October 2014 I started a new job as Archive Conservator at Bethlem Museum Of The Mind, which I am absolutely thrilled with. The collection is extremely interesting and diverse. It houses archival documents, bound volumes, photographic material and artworks, all of which I am now responsible for caring for.
The Museum is also in the throws of a monumental move. We are relocating to the newly refurbished Administrative building, within the same grounds as the current museum and the rest of the Bethlem Hospital. The move itself is not far in terms of distance, but I am currently heavily involved in the planning and organisation of the collection move, and all the logistical details associated with relocating 400 linear meters of material. It isn’t often that one gets the chance to move an entire collection, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the work it involves.
As my new job is part-time I am also increasing my private freelance workflow. I have recently undertaken projects working on maps, football memorabilia and watercolours. So please do get in touch if you have any enquiries!
Yesterday I completed my first volunteering session at the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver. I am undertaking a few months volunteer work there, with the aim of learning more about collection management issues.
The first day’s tasks however were more about helping out staff members with particular tasks as there was a staff shortage that day. The tasks I undertook included making up resin and metal testing strip samples, for students to use the following week in practicing Oddy testing. I also helped re-install a large framed artwork and some smaller wooden masks into the gallery space. Later in the day I helped the loans department by unwrapping, checking and photographing artworks that have just been sent to the museum on loan for an upcoming exhibition.
It was a varied and interesting first day, and I am looking forward to completing more days like this.
Resin samples and metal testing strips made for students to practice Oddy testing with.
During January 2013 I undertook a ceramic packing project for the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), Vancouver. A private donation of Peruvian ceramics was donated to the museum, which had to be wrapped and packed, before being transported to the museum where and inventory of the collection was made. Mouldy ceramics were also dealt with, which required the use of correct personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a respirator, gloves, and lab coat. Some framed textiles were also wrapped as part of the donation. The project required a high degree of organisation, team work, and careful handling. Below are some pictures from the project.
Packing mouldy ceramic shards.
Packing a framed textile.
Packing a ceramic bowl.
Recently I undertook a calcium phytate treatment on a document featuring iron gall ink, following the guidelines found on the ink corrosion website. The treatment was carried out on a bench, rather than in baths, as an experiment in working this way. The principle is exactly the same except the work is done on a bench allowing documents to be worked on a number at a time should sink/bath space be an issue. Each stage of the treatment is applied by dripping the solution (wash/calcium phytate/rinse/deacidify) on to the object gently with a natural sponge, before dabbing off and carrying out the next step. It was a really interesting way to work as I had not tried this before, neither had I carried out a calcium phytate treatment, so both were interesting new experiences. The treatment was a success as indicated by Bathophenanthroline-indicator paper strips placed on the iron gall ink after treatment.
Document during calcium phytate treatment carried out on the bench.
Bathophenathroline indicator paper before, during and after treatment (left to right), showing successful treatment.
I recently undertook a very quick project in one morning, on work placement at the ERO, whereby I had to mount two parchment documents for display. The documents had already been cleaned and did not require any further treatment, thus mounting could commence. The objects were measured and mountboard supports cut to an appropriate size for both, in this case they were very similar and were thus kept the same, which also provided aesthetic harmony to the display.
Slits were cut into the mountboard pieces using a chisel and hammer, and thin Melinex strips were inserted though and held in place with Japanese paper tabs and wheat starch paste. The documents were inserted underneath the strips and the mounting was complete. The wax seals did not require extra surrounding support as they were stable enough and not particularly vulnerable.
The other week I had the opportunity to wash, rinse and deacidify a large quantity of documents at the ERO. The documents were marriage licenses, of which the ERO holds many, and had previously been surface cleaned. Thus they were ready for washing, in warm water with a little Synperonic, and were then rinsed in another water bath, before being deacidified in a bath containing enough Calcium Carbonate to bring the pH levels up to around 8.
My first project at the ERO involved working on another set of marriage licenses (see portfolio), so this process was very familiar to me. It provided a good opportunity to work on a large number of documents in a short space of time, with the aim being to treat as many as possible in one afternoon, with three baths on the go and an item in each at all times. The need for careful handling was also paramount, as the documents were badly mould damaged, and particularly vulnerable when wet.
The three baths left to right: deacidification, wash, rinse (not completed in this order)
Removing a document from the deacidification bath.
Carefully removing the Reemay support from the document, after it has been placed onto a piece of Terylene on a drying rack.