Conserving Photographs on Glass

Glamorgan Archives

The National Coal Board collection at Glamorgan Archives contains around 4000 glass plate negatives, documenting coal mining in South Wales.  These glass plates illustrate a range of subjects concerning colliery life above and below ground.  As glass plates offered more dimensional stability in comparison to plastic supports, they are often found in large industrial collections containing lots of technical imagery and reproductions of maps and plans.

Although the supports provide more chemical stability than their cellulose nitrate and acetate counterparts, glass presents its own problems.  Deterioration can occur in glass, particularly older glass, because it contains water sensitive components which can leach out in fluctuating environments and closed microclimates.  As well as damaging the glass, this process of degradation can also affect the photographic emulsion.

figure 5An example of damaged emulsion

The main issues affecting the glass plate negatives in the NCB collection include broken plates and damaged emulsion.  The broken…

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On the definition of ‘Conservator’ and public perception

Cardiff University SHARE eJournal

I am a conservator. A vague statement, I know. As a vocation, conservation remains poorly defined, at least to those who do not find themselves within it. The issue of terminology has been exhaustively addressed [1]. Whilst those who are not employed within a particular profession often lack an understanding of that profession’s intricacies, they are at least familiar with what is involved. As an example, most know what one means when someone refers to her or himself as an ‘Archaeologist’. The implicitly known (excavating old things, studying those things), the imagined (Lara Croft or Indiana Jones), and the inaccurate (…dinosaurs…) create a visceral image in the minds of people who are not archaeologists. Archaeologists will often reduce their profession to the implicitly known because, though overly simplistic, it is not inaccurate. They will not explain to the layperson, however, about Harris matrices, geomorphology, or post-humanism. An example from…

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Live Local Learn Local: Hidden Histories

CAER Heritage Project

Students from the Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely course visit National Museums Wales with artists from CAER Studio

Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely

In collaboration with CAER Heritage, a recent six-week course, Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely was established by Cardiff University’s innovative Live Local Learn Local programme which delivers free accredited courses in communities facing social and economic challenges. CAER Heritage have embedded a whole range of these brilliant courses into our activities over the past 5 years, including archaeological field work, post excavation analysis and exploring the modern history of the area.

The new course was taken up enthusiastically by five members of the community along with several participants from further afield too, opening up new friendships and networks.

They all had a rare opportunity to visit the vaults of the National Museum of Wales guided by Evan, the senior curator of archaeology at the Museum, and to get valuable training in designing and executing museum exhibitions with Jordan, the…

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Mercenary Volunteering: Part Two. Will I Annoy my Supervisor(s)?

How to Emerge as a museum professional: a guide

In William Tregaskes’ latest blog he spoke about moving on from a voluntary role which had stopped giving him skills as being a ‘tough decision’ and he spoke of sense of breaking ‘loyalty’ with the host institution. If you are thinking of taking a more mercenary approach with the voluntary work you take on, should you be worried about upsetting a supervisor or organisation from which you break away? Drawing on my experience of volunteer management, I think that answer should be a resounding ‘no’ – you should not be worried.

People volunteer for all sorts of reasons, and it feels wrong to reduce the rich mix of individuals that choose to freely give-up their time into mere categories, but one of the larger cohorts are those seeking the skills and experience to either start or further build upon a career in museums.

Importantly, it is from that very…

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Mercenary Volunteering: Part One. Taking Control of your Career Development

How to Emerge as a museum professional: a guide

Sometimes you just have to be a little bit cut-throat to get ahead. In the following post, William Tregaskes discusses his experience of being a ‘mercenary volunteer’ – a term which many of us first heard at the Museums Association’s Moving on Up Conference at Cardiff in February 2018.

I have been a mercenary volunteer. The reality of the sector has meant that I wanted to develop faster than I could through conventional volunteering and I wanted to develop skills which just did not fit in my current role at the time. I wanted more control of my volunteering and my personal development. What I found myself doing was being a mercenary volunteer – but what does this term mean?

433px-Il_Condottiere ‘Leader of Mercenaries’ by da Vinci, 1480. In the British Museum.

Mercenary volunteering is something I have come to personal terms with over the last year. It is also a…

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Conservation Station

Sometimes a conservator receives a task that doesn’t require any adhesives or cleaning. This past week I found myself with a task that simply used my hands and mind. I received two heaps of Egyptian beads on strings that were such a tangled mess no one knew what they were. My job was to untangle them and make sure that they not end up in the same situation again.

One of the first things I noticed was that the thread and string that the beads were on was not an original textile. It appeared that when the beads were found they were strung on whatever threading was nearby. This meant I was working with Victorian string that was more sturdy than an Egyptian textile would have been. I slowly set about attempting to determine where the ends were so that I had a starting point and was intrigued to find…

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Unraveling the Past

Gallery