Icon Conference 2016: Scotland Tour

Due to popular demand, we are hosting a one-day event in which we return to some of the themes and presentations given in the Scotland Group, and Care of Collections Group sessions at last year’s Icon conference.

The day will consist of ten presentations from speakers from all over the UK on a wide range of subjects, and plenty of time for networking. Refreshments and lunch are also provided. Join us for what will surely be a popular event!

  • Date: Friday, 27 October 2017
  • Time: 9.00 – 16.30
  • Location: Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL
  • Costs: Icon Member £45, Student £30, Non-Icon Member £70

Book HERE now!

Timetable

9.00 – 9.30: Arrival, tea and coffee provided

9.30 – 9.40: Introductions and welcome

9.40 – 10.00: Emily Hick, Special Collections Conservator, Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh – Crowdsourcing Conservation

The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) at the University of Edinburgh, is developing innovative ways to carry out conservation work and engage with the student population. This paper will outline a two-day crowdsourcing event, the first of its kind ever held at the CRC, in which 30 students aim to rehouse section II of the Laing manuscripts – the University’s most important written collection.

The presentation will describe the event, provide an evaluation of it, and discuss the challenges faced and ethical points considered. It will also give useful tips and advice for other institutions who are considering holding a similar event. It is hoped that this paper will spark discussion and information sharing about how to help non-conservators engage with conservation treatment in a meaningful way whilst still meeting the need for an ethical approach.

10.00 – 10.20: Claire Thomson, Book and Paper Conservator, National Library of Scotland – The Conservation of the ‘Chimney Map’

A rare antique map that was found stuffed up a chimney in Aberdeen to stop draughts has been saved following intricate conservation work at the National Library of Scotland. It has been revealed to be a late 17th century wall map of the world produced by the Dutch engraver Gerald Valck and there are only two other known copies in existence.

This talk will discuss the work to clean and restore the map, which proved to be one of the most complex yet undertaken by the Library’s conservation department.

10.20 – 10.40: Lizzie Miller, Object Conservator Birmingham Museums Trust – Keeping up with Contemporary Collecting – How conservators at Birmingham Museums Trust are adapting to working with complex modern artworks.

As is the current trend in many museums, Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT)’s five year collecting policy focusses on contemporary sculpture, including installation artworks containing moving elements and time-based media. Yet with no specialist conservator in this discipline, how can the department ensure the preservation of these complex new acquisitions?

A key example is the recently acquired modern art installation, ARTicle 14, Débrouille-toi, toi-même! By Romuald Hazoumè, comprising over 711 individual items, 300 of which are plastic, including mobile phones, trainers and toys. With no budget to employ specialist conservators the BMT conservation team have had to change and adapt to work with such complex pieces, with unstable modern materials, whilst honouring the Artist’s original intent. This paper will explore how conservation are learning to adapt to changing collections policies, by collaborating with external experts and taking on new training and research, to ensure the long-term preservation of these challenging works.

10.40 – 11.00: Questions and answers

11.00 – 11.30: Morning break, tea and coffee provided

11.30 – 11.50: Dr. Cordelia Rogerson, Head of Conservation, British Library – Increasing the Profile and Influence of Conservation – An Unexpected Benefit of Risk Assessments

Risk assessment prior to treatments, exhibitions or loans is vital to conservation, allowing potential problems to be identified and mitigated. After recent work on British Library ‘Treasures’, including Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels and Shakespeare’s mortgage deed, it became apparent that these assessments also served to significantly raise the profile and influence of the Conservation Department within the institution. By presenting risks in a clear, impartial and unambiguous manner, concerns held by conservators can be readily explained to other stakeholders, and this proved invaluable when promoting outcomes not in accordance with their initial aims or requirements. Furthermore, this approach allows complex arguments based on specialist knowledge and experience to be clearly conveyed to non-specialists, emphasising the importance of the conservator’s expertise. The risk assessment models developed as a result are now used widely across the Library, cementing the role of conservation as central to the functioning of the institution.

11.50 – 12.10: Sarah VanSnick, Senior Conservation Manager, National Archives – Taking on mould in a multidisciplinary team.

The National Archives, UK has recently reviewed how it treats and manages existing mould in the collection to mitigate against further outbreaks or reinfection. Mould is a complex issue for any cultural heritage institution to deal with and requires a multidisciplinary and evidence based approach. This paper will present how the conservation team critically evaluated practices within the sector, advice and guidance from external bodies and newly commissioned evidence. It will examine the skills required and challenges to be faced in starting discussions that lead to changes in policy and practice that are relevant to the rest of the sector.

12.10 – 12.30: Dr Isobel Griffin, Collections Care Manager, National Library of Scotland – Collections environment standards: useful or obstructive?

How can collections environment standards such as PAS 198 and PD 5454 practically help us in informing decisionmaking? This paper will discuss whether standards are too prescriptive, or too vague, and will use experiences from the National Library of Scotland to focus on two particular areas: the world of exhibition loans, where requirements still vary between organisations despite the 2014 IIC and ICOM-CC Declaration and the guidelines issued by various groups; and the preservation of film, which is informed by detailed research predicting the effect of the environment upon the lifetime of film collections. Finally, with ambitious targets for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions lying ahead, the paper will ask where we go from here. Is there room for further relaxation of target temperature and Relative Humidity values? And if the rate of change is just as important as the absolute values, how can we measure and control it?

12.30 – 12.50: Questions and answers

12.50 – 13.50: Lunch break. Lunch provided at the venue

13.50 – 14.10: Helen Murdina Hughes, Textile Conservator, Glasgow Life – ‘Unity is Strength’ – Rediscovering Glasgow’s Union and Community Banners at Maryhill Stores: a Cross-disciplinary Documentation and Engagement project.

Glasgow Museums provides a home for a wonderful but little-documented collection of banners, dating from early precursors of trade union groups to modern disputes and peace protests, charting the history of the City’s social conscience. Many of these banners have been kept at Maryhill Stores: a series of old industrial units with basic climatic controls, a skeleton staff and limited access. The arrival of a new ‘decant and inventory’ project team offered an opportunity to change this. The banners project became an invaluable opportunity for crossdisciplinary working, with Conservators, Documentation, Photographers and Students collaborating to create integrated inventories and condition assessments. The work also helped facilitate another concurrent project, ‘Banner Tales’, which took event-specific banners back into the communities that created them, inspiring collection engagement around Glasgow.

14.10 – 14.30: Lynsey Haworth, Regional Collections Manager, Historic Environment Scotland – Hanging out: strain monitoring of tapestries.

Tapestry conservation research has tended to focus on chemical degradation. But what impact does the physical structure of a tapestry have on its eventual decay? In early 2015 a collaborative research project was initiated between the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Textile Conservation and Historic Environment Scotland. The project is capturing high quality images of the newly completed Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry from Stirling Castle, using time lapse photography. The images are fed through a software program turning them into ‘strain maps’, highlighting areas where deformation has taken place. This will show how much strain the tapestry is under and how this changes over time, and highlight areas where damage is likely to occur.

This project is part of wider research into tapestry conservation techniques. Strain data and computer modelling are being used to investigate the effects of different treatment and display methods.

14.30 – 14.50: Sarah Foskett, Lecturer, MPhil Textile Conservation, University of Glasgow – Monitoring Costume on Display: a collaborative project between University of Glasgow and Glasgow Museums

Collaborative work between conservation students, established conservation professionals and museum institutions offers a valuable opportunity for all concerned, especially for students for whom it provides a platform to gain real world experience and contribute to the profession. Second year students at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History joined forces with Glasgow Museums to undertake environmental monitoring of a major temporary exhibition held at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, A Century of Style: Costume and Colour 1800-1899. The exhibition showcased some rarely seen examples of European costume, much of which was on open display. Students focused on dust monitoring, using low-cost and low-technology methods of collecting, analyzing and quantifying the levels of dust within the exhibition. This paper aims to outline, examine, and evaluate the efficacy and limitations of the methods used and will discuss the student conservator’s role and responsibility within this project.

14.50 – 15.10: Ioannis Vasallos, Photographic Collections Conservator, National Library of Scotland – The Preservation of Black and White Polaroid prints: Research based on three albums from the Stanley Kubrick Archive.

The Stanley Kubrick Archive has a unique set of albums with Polaroid prints made during the filming of ‘’The Shining’’; these objects are an important source for the study of the work of the acclaimed director. Research was carried out in 2012 in order to determine the cause of fading in a large number of prints from these albums. Over the course of the research, both the materials of the photographs and the albums were examined. The study and the identification of the Polaroid prints yielded interesting results that helped the decision-making process for subsequent treatments on the objects, in order to ensure their preservation and accessibility. Furthermore, issues are raised on the complexity of the nature and preservation of Polaroid prints and the need for further research on the topic. Finally, the importance of keeping the integrity of the albums is discussed.

15.10 – 15.30: Questions and answers

15.30 – 15.40: Final remarks and close

15.40 – 16.30: Refreshments and networking

16.30: Close

 

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

Meet the Committee – Isobel Griffin

In this month’s edition of ‘Meet the Committee’ we hear from Isobel Griffin, Collections Care Manager at the National Library of Scotland…

What is your main area of Conservation?
Preventive conservation, conservation science and management

What is your position within the Icon Scotland Group?
I am the Publications Officer. I provide encouragement and practical support to help conservators in Scotland write about and publicise their work. At the moment I’m busy planning the Icon Scotland session at the Icon 2016 conference.

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Paper Conservators: News and Ideas Exchange 2016

Due to the success of last year’s ‘News and Ideas‘ exchange, the event was repeated at the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh again this year in May. During the session, 19 Conservators from all over Scotland gave 5-minute presentations on a wide range of topics such as treatments they had carried out, problems they had encountered and work flow processes. Conservation volunteers, Mathilde Renauld and Paula Burbicka, submitted a joint review of this event which gives readers an insight into the subjects covered, and the benefits of the gathering…

Paper conservators

Panel of paper conservators

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Sound as a Snake: conservation techniques for unusual materials

This week’s blog post comes from Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, Conservator at the Musical Instrument Museum Edinburgh (MIMEd) at the University of Edinburgh. During the redevelopment of St Cecilia’s Hall, where the musical instrument collections will be displayed, Jonathan is assessing and conserving the entire collection. You can find out more about the redevelopment project by visiting their fantastic blog. In this post, Jonathan describes the conservation of one of their instruments, using a technique learnt from a book conservator….

One of the MIMEd instruments that went under conservation treatment recently is a Chinese sanxian (MIMEd 437)The instrument, played both as a solo or orchestral instrument in Chinese classical music, is a plucked instrument with three strings. This sanxian was made in the mid-nineteenth century and was collected by John Donaldson, the founder of the Music Classroom Museum of Edinburgh University, and has been part of the University’s collection since before 1872.

An interesting element of sanxian construction is that the front and back of the body are made of snake skin – often that of a python. Although visually stunning, this material is susceptible to damage. Unfortunately changes in relative humidity over the years has caused the skin of the back and front of our sanxian to stretch resulting in tears.

Before treatment

To treat this instrument I used a technique I recently learned from a workshop given by Caroline Scharfenberg, a rare book conservator, which took place at the conservation studio of the Main Library, University of Edinburgh. The technique is known as Japanese paper toning and it involves the use of Japanese paper to reinforce torn materials. The paper is then coloured using natural pigments to match the original material resulting in an inconspicuous repair. In the case of the sanxian I reinforced the tears in the snake skin, applying Japanese paper to the inside of the instrument.  I then toned and texturized the paper to match that of the snake skin.

During Treatment, Japanese paper repair (left), toned repair (right)

Although the tears are still visible, this treatment has made the damage less noticeable and more stable. Now the instrument is ready for display in the redeveloped St Cecilia’s Hall.

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Instrument ready for display

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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‘Broken Pieces’ Podcast

Chloe Medghalchi, an intern at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC), University of Edinburgh, creates interesting and thoughtful podcasts based on items in the University’s wide ranging collections. Chloe interviews staff members and carries out her own  research to gain a better understanding of the material held by the CRC. She then writes, records and edits the podcasts which bring together different objects around a weekly theme.

She recently released this excellent podcast entitled ‘Broken Pieces’ which explores issues surrounding restoration, conservation, and the value of an item when it is broken. You can listen to the podcast using the link below. Keep an ear out for committee member Emily Hick, who is a Project Conservator at the CRC – she pops up throughout the episode!

You can listen to more podcasts from this series here.

 

Happy Birthday to us!

Our blog is now 1 year old! Over the past year, we have published 44 articles, and our site has be visited by 3,447 people, with a total of 6,299 views. A big thank you to all those who have submitted articles, posted comments, shared, liked and viewed this site.

This year, we would like to post even more fantastic articles about conservation in Scotland. If you would like to contribute, get in touch! We’d love to hear about any conservation related project you are involved in – all disciplines welcome. Have a look at this post for some ideas, and here are some brief guidelines for articles.

If you have any comments, suggestions or thoughts on what you would like to see in this blog, feel free to post your ideas below.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Birthday-cake-candle-ideas

Happy birthday to us!

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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