In this week’s blog post, we hear from three new professionals who were this year’s beneficiaries of the June Baker Trust Grants for Emerging Conservators. If you would like to find out more information about the June Baker Trust, and details of how to apply to this fund, click here.
The June Baker Trust was set up in 1990 to promote and encourage the development and study of the conservation of either historical or artistic artefacts in Scotland. Since that time the scheme has to date awarded more than £25,000 in grants to Scottish conservators for continuous professional development.
The success of these awards led the trustees to develop a new strand of funding for emerging conservators, which has been made possible this year thanks to the generosity of the Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust.
In May 2015, three newly qualified conservators based in Scotland, received awards of up to £1000 each from the June Baker Trust to carry out a continuous professional development project of their own design. In this article, we find out about what they did and how they benefitted from getting this funding.
Marta Garcia Celma
The project I developed thanks to the economic support of June Baker Trust consisted of two different short placements in Scotland. The first, within an institution environment, focused on the survey of Photographic Collections. The second focused on practical conservation treatments of photographs and works of art on paper while learning and seeing the duties of a private conservator.
When I wrote the proposal for June Baker Trust Grant emerging conservators in Scotland, I focused on areas of conservation in which I felt I lacked of knowledge and experience but I believed were relevant for my career in this profession. What I have always wanted to feel confident with, but never got the opportunity to get immersed or trained in. For me, these were surveying skills and working in private practice. The month and a half of professional experience I enjoyed helped me to increase my knowledge and practice of surveying and my awareness of self-employment in conservation.
Another major accomplishment gained thanks to the support of June Baker is the opportunity to develop and improve my social interactions with many people from the heritage sector. I connected in a professional and personal way with my mentors and colleagues during the placements. In addition, I met other professionals from the sector not just from the library or the studio but from museums, galleries and private practice.
This experience has increased my confidence in my own abilities and dexterity, and it has also been great opportunity to create and reinforce connections with people from the sector.
I am thankful to the June Baker Trust Grants for their support in my early stages of this beautiful profession, conservation. I truly enjoyed every minute of the placements and I will always keep with me, not just the new knowledge and skills acquired, but also the people I meet in the way.
In an economic situation such as this, the benefit of paid opportunities for new graduates cannot be overstated. The June Baker Trust aims to give conservation graduates a chance to gain a foothold in Scotland, specifically to encourage the retention of skilled workers in the North. For many large institutions, grants like these offer a chance to meet and asses newly qualified graduates. Recipients of the June Baker Trust Grant for Emerging Conservators in Scotland can help to work through projects which will have a real impact on the quality of collections. In return, it offers those recipients the chance to create professional networks and increase their experience in the workplace.
Between May and September this year, with the help of the June Baker Trust, I volunteered at the Scottish Conservation Studio and the National Museum of Scotland, working on diverse projects ranging from the conservation of a collection of watercolour paintings to the repair of antique Japanese print albums.
It can be difficult as a newly qualified conservator to gain experience in complex conservation techniques, particularly on significant or valuable collections. Using the June Baker Trust Grant to volunteer my time meant that I was included in projects which a new graduate would not expect to have access to. I was also involved in discussions relating to treatment options and decision making, which increased the range of my skills. The chance to meet senior conservators informally gave me insights into recruitment procedures and an understanding of what they, as potential employers, look for in an applicant.
The June Baker Trust Grant for Emerging Conservators in Scotland is a resource for all of us who feel a connection to Scottish heritage and want to try and forge our careers here. Scotland’s rich history and extensive collections deserve an energetic and highly skilled workforce of people committed to its conservation, and the June Baker Trust is integral to maintaining that.
My project focused on developing my skills of carrying out surveys for conservation work. I chose to focus on this area after analysing my CV and finding that this was an area of weakness. It is difficult to gain these types of skills as an emerging conservator as often a project has been scoped out before a position starts. If mistakes are made while surveying a collection, and incorrect time and material estimates are given, it can result in going over budget and over time. So these are vital skills to develop.
The project lasted four weeks in total, and I began by spending a day at Royal Commission of Historic and Ancient Monuments in Scotland (RCHAMS), followed by two days at the National Library of Scotland (NLS), to learn about their surveying methods.
After this, I spent two days carrying out my own research on survey methods, spending time at Edinburgh University Library and at the National Library Scotland. I also took a day to create two surveys on Microsoft Access Database for use in carrying out two collections reviews at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) Edinburgh University.
At the CRC, I carried out three surveys in total; an item by item survey of the Oriental Manuscripts collection (5 days), and a random sample survey of the Laing collection (5 days). Following this, I spent two days writing up reports which included information on the condition of the collections, recommendations for future work, materials needed and time estimates. I also spent two days carrying out a brief survey on the use of space in the store rooms, suggesting how items could be repackaged to save space.
This project has been hugely beneficial to me and helped me gain surveying skills which are frequently asked for in more senior conservation job descriptions. My one piece of advice for other Conservators who are considering applying is: Be creative! This is an excellent opportunity to fund a learning experience that may not be available through other channels. An innovative project will not only gain you unique experience, but will also make your CV stand out.