Conservation Volunteering Programme at the National Library of Scotland

Conservators from the National Library of Scotland describe their successful volunteering programme in this week’s blog…

The Library’s Conservation Unit frequently receives requests for volunteer placements, and it can be difficult to accommodate these requests within our busy workshop. Following discussions amongst the conservators, we decided to create a summer volunteering programme which would allow us to take a batch of several volunteers, to work for a day a week on a number of appropriate projects. This would allow us to use volunteers in a more efficient and structured way, and to welcome a greater number of volunteers.

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Crowdsourcing Conservation

During the Festival of Creative Learning (20-24 February 2017), the Centre for Research Collections (CRC), University of Edinburgh, will be hosting its first ever conservation crowdsourcing event!

Over a two-day period (20-21 February), with the help of 30 participants, they aim to rehouse section II of the Laing manuscripts – the University’s most important written collection.

Folder from section II of the Laing manuscripts

Folder from section II of the Laing manuscripts

Laing’s collection of charters and other papers is of national importance and the most distinguished of its kind in any Scottish university. It is an essential resource for the 18th century, however, it is in poor condition due to its current housing in unsuitable upright boxes and folders. It is an extremely popular collection, but it is difficult to access and there is a risk of further damage every time it is handled.

Section II of the Laing Manuscripts in unsuitable upright boxes

Section II of the Laing Manuscripts in unsuitable upright boxes

Section II of the Laing manuscripts stored in upright box (left) and damage caused to collection due to storage (right)

Section II of the Laing manuscripts stored in upright box (left) and damage caused to collection due to storage (right)

To solve this problem, we want to rehouse the collection in acid-free folders and boxes. During the event, we aim to complete repackaging work of all 137 boxes. Each day will consist of a training session in the morning, followed by practical work. In the afternoon, volunteers will be joined by staff members from the CRC who will talk to them about their roles, whilst helping to carry out the conservation work. Good quality complimentary refreshments and catering will be provided throughout the day to encourage networking during break times. A behind-the-scenes tour of the CRC, where the participants will get to see the newly rehoused collection will be offered after the event.

Places are limited to 15 participants per day. If you are a student or staff member of the University of Edinburgh, you can book on the Monday session, by clicking here and the Tuesday session, by clicking here. If you are not a part of the University, please email emily.hick@ed.ac.uk to book your place.

Emily Hick

Special Collections Conservator

Conservation Placement in Scotland

Lisa Mitchell, conservation placement student from Northumbria University describes her experience of working at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC), University of Edinburgh, in this week’s blog post…

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of working with the conservation team at the CRC as part of my summer placement for my Master’s degree in conservation on works of art on paper.

Following an intense but fulfilling first year studying at Northumbria University, the summer has provided a very welcome respite from assignment writing and the opportunity to put some of my newly taught conservation skills into practice!
Working alongside Emily Hick, the Special Collections Conservator, I have been fortunate enough to assist her in the completion of the final stages of the conservation treatment of a collection of 32 portraits from India, which Emily has recently written about in her Passage to India blogs.

before-and-after

Indian paintings, before and after conservation

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Student Placement at Edinburgh University

Joey Shuker, conservation placement student from Camberwell College of Art describes her experience of working at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) at Edinburgh University in this week’s blog post…

I have been very fortunate to have spent the last four weeks in the CRC as part of my summer placement for my masters degree in Conservation of Paper. I have just finished the first year of a two-year masters at Camberwell College of Art, part of the University of Arts London.

I have been working mostly in the studio with Emily Hick, but my placement here has also taken me to the National Library of Scotland conservation studios, The Scottish Conservation Studio (private studio) and I have spent days working at the Annexe (the CRC’s of site facility) with Project Conservator, Katharine Richardson.

One of the projects I spent most time working on was conserving a collection of photographs of Leith in the 1920s.The condition in which the photographs arrived in meant they where not able to be digitised. The prints were mounted on thick card that had distorted due to past environmental and storage conditions. The distortion of the card mount was pulling and creasing the photograph. Being so distorted meant that any pressure to put them under glass during the digitisation process would have caused more damage to the print. The decision was made (before I arrived) to remove the mount backing which would allow the prints to relax and flatten.

Days were spent removing the backing down to the layer just above the back of the print. A scalpel with a no.22 blade was used to remove the backing layer by layer and a pencil grid was drawn on each layer to ensure even removal which would support the print during this process.

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Curved photograph and mount

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Grid on back of mount

After the majority of the backing mount had been removed and the prints began to relax and could be pressed under glass overnight. Backing removal was something I had learnt on my course but I had only ever done it on large prints rather than a collection of small ones.

Doing aqueous treatments on photographs was something I had not yet covered on my course. Emily showed me a humidification method that allowed enough moisture to soften the paste holding the last backing layer on, but didn’t affect the print. We used fords gold medal blotter, which was recommended for use with photographs as it is thinner and holds less water. We used a blotter sandwich for humidification, the prints were humidified for 30 minutes. After this time, the last layer of backing could be easily peeled away and the paste could be removed with a spatula.

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Blotter sandwich

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Removing the paste

After this treatment and being put into a press for a couple of days, the box of photographs that arrived at CRC curved and stiff are now relaxed and flattened and ready to be sent to the photography lab for digitisation. This was a great project to work on as I could follow the project almost from start to finish.

I have learnt many new skills and I have been introduced to new treatment methods throughout my time here. Alongside working with Emily and the conservation team in the studio, I have also had introductions to other members of staff who have taken time to show me their role in the wider CRC such as the Archives, Photography Lab, Exhibitions, Rare Books and the Musical Instruments Conservation studio.

This placement has been highly valuable to my studies and preparing for work after university.

Joey Shuker

Conservation Student Placement

Emerging Professionals Trip to Edinburgh Castle

Icon Scotland (ISG) organized an event this March to bring together students and emerging professionals while learning about conservation at Edinburgh Castle.  The event, subsidised by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), allowed for students to explore Scotland’s heritage while gaining inside knowledge of how such properties are managed and cared for.  It was also an opportunity to bring together the upcoming cohort of conservators, who came from across Scotland and England to attend the event.

edinburgh castle emerging profs mar16 (7)

Emerging professionals outside Edinburgh Castle

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Conservation Internship at Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

In this week’s blog, we hear from Katharine Richardson, Conservation Intern at the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh…

I am currently mid-way into a 10-week internship with the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) at the Edinburgh University Library. Having spent the last four years working in historic houses, I was keen to gain experience in a different working environment. I’m thrilled to have been given this opportunity to work with the research collections at Edinburgh University. It has been very interesting to learn about the challenges of managing a working research collection and the conservation issues that come with it.

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June Baker Trust – Emerging Conservators Grant

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.

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Ingenious Impressions: The Coming of the Book

This week’s blog is a summary of a six-month internship by Sarah Graham at the University of Glasgow. Sarah helped to prepare for the current ‘Ingenious Impressions’ exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery, which closes on the 21st June. Don’t miss out on this innovative exhibition, get down there now!

For the last six months I have been the conservation intern on the Glasgow Incunabula Project at the University of Glasgow. This was in preparation for the Ingenious Impressions exhibition which opened in February and runs until June. There has been a lot of bench work in the studio to prepare this 500 year old material for display but I have also been given experience outside the studio during the installation and engaging with social media. The overwhelming majority of material in Special Collections is available for reference in the reading room and they frequently loan material to exhibitions worldwide. This, however, is the first time they have curated their own exhibition in over 10 years. Over the last 5 years, the Glasgow Incunabula Project (Julie Gardham, Jack Baldwin and Bob Mclean) have catalogued over a thousand incunabula (books produced between 1450-1501) when the printed book was created as we know it today.

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Karma, Castles and Condoms: My Career in Conservation

“So, what do you do?” This is the question that I always dread at parties. The blank look, the polite nod, the death of the conversation….. Hello, my name is Emily, and I am a paper conservator and no, I don’t work with trees.

I first became interested in conservation during my undergraduate degree at Glasgow University. I was studying History of Art and I remember having a lecture on technical art history, that is, how to find out more about a painting by analysing the materials used. They showed us a painting which had pink flowers in, and then went on to explain that these flowers were originally white, but they had changed over time in reaction with the environment. Years of research had gone in to these pink flowers. Why did the artist choose pink? What did it symbolise? Only to find out that the artist didn’t intend for these flowers to be pink at all! I was amazed that paintings could be viewed in a totally different way, affecting our interpretation of it, and found the whole story very amusing.

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