Martin hard at work cleaning a medieval pendant
The Conservation team has been getting out and about a bit recently. Both Jill and Martin have been out assessing potential items for the collections – as far afield as London and Surrey – some have been accepted, others not. Meanwhile I swanned off to Scotland for fun. However, I’ve also been working with Learning Team, resulting in a couple of talks to 8-year-old school children. It’s been interesting trying to explain what we do at a level they can understand – they did say their heads were a bit full….. Martin provided material for activity sheets, so that’s 3 groups hopefully thinking a bit more about how to look after things.
The Building Management System programmers have been in to discuss how we can get the best performance for the environmental controls now we’ve seen how it behaves in reality. I’ve learned an awful lot over the last couple of years, and in many ways will be sorry to hand the job of liaising with the Council Engineer over to our new technician when he starts, but there are other things I need to be doing.
Both Martin and I have been condition reporting items for the Robert Longden exhibition. The photographs (my job) are really evocative, and drew me in to look at them properly as images – usually it’s a quick glance in ‘over-view’, then switch to detailed inspection mode. These days when going round other exhibitions, I find I’m missing out on enjoying the objects because I can’t stop myself inspecting mounts, condition, etc!
Very detailed and delicate work!
Martin has been cleaning a medieval horse-harness pendant in preparation for one of the series of Collections Conversations in What’s in Store where he’ll be talking about conserving objects. Here he’s scraping off overlying corrosion plus the earth incorporated into the corrosion to get back to the original surface layer, using a microscope to see the fine detail. The x-ray image which Martin is using as a guide shows a lion feature; traces of gilding and enamelling have also survived the long burial. Using his private interest, Martin has also been choosing coins from our collections and recessing them into plastazote (inert foam) to fill more drawers in What’s in Store – these drawers are gradually being completed as we get material.
Jill’s work tends to be over a longer timescale – over the last several months she had been working between other tasks on cleaning a copy of a Botticelli painted in 1900 by Helen Coombe, then a student at the Slade, later married to art critic Roger Fry. This had suffered from a white ‘bloom’ over the surface. Careful use of solvent swabs has worked wonders on it, and the fine details and colours are now clearly visible. In between sessions on this, she has done tasks such as restoring damage to the frame of O’Connor’s ‘Trees at Montigny, 1902’ on long-term loan to us, condition checking paintings in ‘From Here to There’ and involvement with rehanging the Art Since 1900 gallery. Jill is just starting work on an interesting painting with interesting damage – Fred Jackson ‘Boats on the Shore’. This will make an excellent case study – so keep an eye out for a dedicated blog from Jill.