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

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Vancouverite Abroad

Since November, every Wednesday I get the pleasure of volunteering at the National Museum of Wales- Amgueddfa Cymru in Cardiff. I work with the amazing Preventative Conservation team, lead by Christian Baars.

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What does that mean? Like me, the majority of you probably think of wilderness or animals when you hear the term “conservation.” In the context of museums and my studies here in Cardiff, conservation refers to fixing and caring for objects such as 14947629_10211232927365846_5975985971789537230_npottery, paintings, sculptures… or anything you might find in a museum or archive. Therefore preventative conservation work encompasses anything and everything we can do to prevent damage to museum objects.

On my first day of volunteering, we were tasked with looking for signs of insect infestations… ironically we were looking for them in the museum’s entomology (insect) collection. How? Little insects who eat these collections may leave signs that they were there. We could find bodies, casings, or…

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Dirt & Dead Things: Conservation at the National Museum of Wales

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Chloe Pearce Conservation

A Peruvian ceramic, otherwise known as Gerald, was the first object I was allocated at Cardiff. Communication with Newport Museum confirmed they wanted an invisible repair, however the task was not that simple. Further examination showed that the ceramic had been damaged on two occasions. The original break, in which one piece came away, was adhered with Paraloid B72. When the ceramic was damaged a second time the ceramic fabric failed and a piece was lost. The cohesion strength of the Paraloid caused the fabric to fail and there was extensive fabric transfer along the break. These details all made my first task quite complicated.

With no information I first turned my attention to material and production analysis and understanding. The fabric contains unburnt organic material, which is dark grey and runs through the centre of the ceramic. There is also medium density inclusions; they vary widely in colour and…

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Missing Pieces: Conservation of a Peruvian Ceramic

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Chloe Pearce Conservation

Çatalhöyük is located in the Konya Plain, approximately 45km from Konya. It is a Neolithic settlement first inhabited in 7,4000 BCE. The landscape consisted largely of wetland, rather than the contrasting dust and farmland we see today. In July I spent around three weeks on site helping out the conservation department.

My experience to date has been limited to working within the lab at Cardiff University. Here, the environment is managed. In the lab on site there was no such control. In the shelters on site this problem was often exaggerated; the north shelter can reach 48°C during the summer and drop below zero during the winter months. With this, the humidity can vary from near 100% to 40% throughout the year. Materials used must be able to withstand huge changes in environment, while still maintaining the desired properties.

For wall painting consolidation we used 5% Paraloid B44, a methyl…

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Çatalhöyük: Practicalities of Field Conservation

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Chloe Pearce Conservation

The work of conservators is often carried out behind closed doors, so the public rarely see an object’s full transformation. This is gradually being altered as conservation is presented to museum audiences.

On Saturday the 23rd of April the conservation department of the National Museum of Wales presented their work in the museum’s foyer. The exhibits included preventative, archaeological, textile and painting conservation. Some were interactive, such as identifying objects from their x-ray images and looking at fibres and pigments through the microscope. These kinds of activities relate directly to the work we do. A few objects were also on display, such as the fantastic arm chair cover. However, the displays were largely dominated by microscope and SEM photos which often needed explaining

The enthusiasm, welcoming and knowledgeable nature of the staff really carried the open day. With them I discussed identifying pigments, ethics, and mineralised organics. I also…

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Out of the back rooms: The Conservation Open Day at the National Museum of Wales

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University of Cambridge Museums

tos_01-1Working in a museum is sometimes like being an explorer — and occasionally it even involves being a kid at heart. I’ve had tremendous fun recently because of a new acquisition: 33 little kits called ‘Things of Science.’

These marvellous little boxes and envelopes from around the world would never have arrived at the Whipple Museum if it wasn’t for a student. Museums expand their collections for all sorts of reasons — aesthetics, national or local significance, prestige etc. — and as a University museum based in an academic department, we often collect objects for research purposes. Our Curator of Modern Sciences Josh Nall can tell us more:

“The Whipple Museum’s primary function is to support research and teaching in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. We’re lucky to have a modest acquisitions budget, which helps us expand the collection and find new source materials for students and…

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Things of Science

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