A guest post by our lovely Conservators Jenny Barsby and Zoë Lanceley
Last week Jenny and Zoë from our conservation team attended the Icon Textile forum. This is an annual event organised by Icon (the Institute of Conservation) which is the professional body for conservators in the UK. The forum is a gathering of other textile conservators from across the UK, it is an opportunity to hear presentations and see posters based on a theme which changes each year and the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues.
For 2015 the theme of the day was ‘Learning Curve: Education, Experience and Reflection.’ It was a packed day with eleven papers delivered in total, with speakers from other national museums, private practitioners and students. To start was ‘Textile Education – what are we training for?’ This paper, written by Frances Lennard and Sarah Foskett reflected on the 40 years since the establishment of the Textile Conservation Centre which was originally based at Hampton Court Palace in London but is now run through Glasgow University, this training programme is currently the only place to study textile conservation in the UK producing around 9 graduates each year. The next paper delivered by Katriina Similä and co-authored with Dinah Eastop was entitled ‘Positioning: where you stand’ based around a workshop held at the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and dealt with different people’s perspective of cultural heritage within an institution using conservation documentation to show how one person’s view of an object in this case can be completely different to someone else’s. ‘Public and Private Studio Collaboration for Interns’ by Jacqueline Hyman and Pierrette Squires discussed the benefits gained by their interns who had the opportunity to work in a private studio and at Bolton Museum. The placements offered the chance to do practical conservation work and learn about broader aspects of collections care and exhibition installation.
After tea the next session of papers began with ‘Standing on the shoulders of others: further developments in polychrome patterned nylon net’ written by Maria Jordan and Libby Thompson from Historic Royal Palaces. This paper outlined a treatment developed to protect very fragile textiles with nylon net which had been toned to match the fabric using digital printing and screen printing methods. The benefits and pitfalls of the work were discussed. This was followed by another practical paper from Elizabeth-Anne Haldane, Joanne Hackett, Sarah Glenn and Sung Im from the V&A entitled ‘Borrowing from the neighbours: using the technology of other disciplines to treat difficult textile conservation problems’, they described a series of treatments inspired by a workshop held at the museum by Richard Wolbers who specialises in cleaning systems for delicate objects such as paintings, paper and textiles. The final presentation of this session was ‘Conservation of a large chenille carpet from Cragside, Northumberland’ written by Aimee Grice-Venour from the National Trust. The paper dealt with the challenges of working on large scale floor coverings and how the studio had to adapt working practices to accommodate it.
A short AGM followed the lunch break and then the afternoon session began with a paper by Alice Brown, Sophie Minnis, and Louise Joynson. ‘Tapestries in time: The role of time and our development in tapestry conservation’ looked at the Doddington Hall tapestry project which is ongoing and involves the team of conservators working in a studio which is accessible to the public. They talked about their working practices and the problems and benefits of doing such complex work in full view of the general public. Jennifer Cruise from the University St. Thomas Minnesota presented a paper called ‘Missing Links? Access, Utility and Communication’ discussing the scientific literature produced by and available to conservators, looking at how we use these resources and which external factors can affect the progression of this research. This was followed by a paper by Nora Meller from the Royal Museums Greenwich entitled ‘Learning from interdisciplinary collaboration during an internship at Royal Museums Greenwich.’ It discussed a project to stabilise and pack a collection which had been donated by the London Missionary Society and included a large number of ethnographic objects.
During break periods there was the opportunity to view a selection of posters which had been produced, including one from Zoë detailing a treatment that she carried out when working at the Victoria and Albert Museum last year. The poster was about a complicated project she carried out to mount a German Calvary helmet dating from 1630, which will go on permanent display at the V&A later this year. The helmet was complete with its original padded linen lining, so Zoë had to work with the mountmaking team to find a way to display it, making sure it is safe and secure whilst appearing to hover in midair.
An afternoon tea break was followed by a talk by Ann French from the Whitworth Art Gallery, reflecting on her career in conservation with ‘Thirty Years On: Connecting Personal Self-Reflection to Professional Change.’ Looking back at her experiences, she discussed the shift in value systems which challenge conservators to re-address the way we treat and display objects in our care. The final presentation of the day was delivered by Joan Kendall Textile consultant at Hatfield house. ‘Recruiting, selecting, Training and Managing volunteers for the Textile Conservation Group at Hatfield House, 1977-2014’ was a tribute to a long running volunteer programme from inception to the highs and lows of working with the groups and eventual end to the project alongside Joan’s retirement. In January the TCS team drove down to Hatfield House to collect a painted 19th Century Garter Banner which we are currently conserving in the studio . Next time you’re visiting the PHM, have a look at it through our studio window.