Curator’s Advent. Day 22. Conservation supplies

In need of conservation supplies. Serious condensation inside a showcase
In need of conservation supplies. Serious condensation inside a showcase
In need of conservation supplies. Serious condensation inside a showcase

Purchasing conservation supplies is retail therapy for the curator.

Solander boxes. Unbleached cotton tape. Melanex sleeves. Acid free tissue. Goat hair brush. Distilled water. Tyvek. Humidity control cassettes. Nitrile gloves (S, M, L, XL). Solid brass paperclips. Book sofa. Light meter. Thermohygrometer. Plastazote.

Museum gel.

Curator’s Advent. Day 3. Moths

Butterflies on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro. Not moths but you get the idea.
Butterflies on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro. Not moths but you get the idea.
Butterflies on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro. Not moths but you get the idea.

Moths and other creepy pests are The Enemy of the curator (unless they are already dead and desirable specimens, pinned and catalogued). If you see a furrowed brow and haunted look, a struggle with sticky pheromone-fueled patches, spare a thought. We are saving museums from the very real peril of textiles and taxidermy annihilation. No one wants to see a naval rating’s uniform with holes in its unmentionables.

Textile Conservation Centre finds a new home in Glasgow

Clearly much continued to happen behind the scenes by the TCC Foundation before and since its closure in Winchester. A press release was made last week announcing a new home in Glasgow for many of its activities, particularly in research and education. I have taken the liberty of reproducing the press release in full below:

Press release issued by the University of Glasgow on 24th March 2010

New conservation centre preserves the fabric of the nation

Preserving the fabric of the nation’s treasures for future generations, a new textile conservation centre is to be established at the University of Glasgow.

The Textile Conservation Centre Foundation (TCCF) and the University of Glasgow have agreed to found the new teaching and research facility – the only resource of its kind in the UK – in the University’s Robertson Building.

Professor Nick Pearce, Director of the Institute for Art History and Head of the Department of History of Art, University of Glasgow, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity both for the University and also for the conservation profession in Scotland, the UK and internationally. Expertise, facilities and the wealth of the collections make Glasgow the ideal place for the kind of interdisciplinary research and study which the centre will promote.”

Peter Longman, Deputy Chairman of the Textile Conservation Centre Foundation said: “There was such concern over the closure of the Textile Conservation Centre in Winchester that over the last 18 months we have been approached by several institutions anxious to work with us to continue aspects of its work. We have considered a number of options, but the combination of Glasgow with its world class University and History of Art Department and the unrivalled collections in and around the City proved an irresistible location.

“This is a unique opportunity to build on the UK’s reputation in textile conservation training and related research; we look forward to contributing to its future success in Glasgow.”

The new centre for Textile Conservation, History and Technical Art History will focus on multidisciplinary object-based teaching and research that encompasses conservation and the physical sciences as well as art history, dress and textile history. It will be the first time that conservation training has been undertaken in Scotland and, combined with the University’s recent developments in technical art history, the new centre will have national and international impact.

The new Centre will inherit existing library intellectual property and analytical equipment from the TCCF, so that staff and future students will be able to draw on the key physical and intellectual assets built up over more than 30 years. Students will also have the opportunity to work with some of the best textile collections in the world held by Glasgow Museums, the National Museums of Scotland and the University’s own Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery. New academic posts will be created and the Centre will work closely with the Foundation to establish a global research network in textile conservation, textile and dress history and technical art history.

The first student intake is planned for September 2010 offering a 2-year Masters in Textile Conservation and a 1-year Masters in Dress and Textile History as well as opportunities for doctoral research. These new courses will join the existing Masters programme in Technical Art History, Making and Meaning, as part of the Centre. The Foundation is also offering a limited number of bursaries in the first years of the textile conservation programme and a fundraising campaign is already underway to raise further funds for the new development including additional studentships and new research projects. Potential students who would like to receive updates on the development and course details should email Ailsa Boyd at the University of Glasgow at: or

‘What do you want the future of Seaton Delaval to be?’ and ‘Will you help?’

These are the words of the National Trust‘s Director-General, Fiona Reynolds on a new kind of campaign by the trust to get the public to decide the future of Seaton Delaval Hall, its gardens, grounds and a large area of countryside in south Northumberland near Blyth.

The Trust intend to purchase the house and its estate to save it for the nation in perpetuity. It is willing to back the purchase with £6m of its own money but needs to raise a further £6m from public appeal, fundraising and public grants.

Romantic and partly-ruined, Seaton Delaval was built between 1718 and 1731 by Sir John Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, and is widely said be the finest work of the English Baroque and one of the most important historic houses in Britain.

In quite a firm statement, the NT’s Trustees have said that without public support, both in terms of fundraising and the public demonstrating a desire for the acquisition to take place, they will not proceed with the acquisition.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of the announcement yesterday of a new Chairman for the National Trust, Simon Jenkins, well-known as a newspaper editor, journalist, writer and heritage conservation campaigner. There have been no big pronouncements from him about his appointment and the future of the Trust which is a refreshing change.

So is this a one-off for the Trust and similar bodies? Does the public have to decide such things? Or is this a genuine attempt to change the way society deals with the conservation and preservation of the country’s past? The latest news on their website does not mention the Seaton Delaval campaign but then again the press release was only received 23 minutes ago. However, if I have managed to blog it, I should think they could do the same. I do hope their campaign will properly use such methods to communicate and raise its profile. I watch with intense interest.

Conservation and communication

Recently Tom blogged about the prospect of the National Trust’s massive investment into digital technologies, including the web. Electric Acorns is a great new blog started by a an NT employee and devoted to peeling back some of the layers of the great institution in an effort to allow the public and fellow professionals a better insight into all the work the Trust does (see his comment below).

Institutions involved with promoting, undertaking or advising on the conservation of historic environments and artefacts are not great at communicating their work. I often wonder, if they were, whether the tensions between access and preservation could be better ‘managed’ (to use a phrase en vogue) but at the very least, better understood by the wider public, and whether funders and politicians would regard conservation as being a cultural activity of the highest value to society and therefore less willing to withdraw or withold support (see my post on the Textile Conservation Centre’s closure).

Interest in history, the past and the environment has never been more keen than it is now. Neither has it been more easy to have your say in front of a global audience with the internet revolution. Why aren’t more institutions involved with conservation adopting open and honest communication with the public through the web in the form of blogs, web forums, podcasts and more? Matthew of Electric Acorns is taking a step forward for his organisation (I do hope they appreciate it). What is everyone else doing? Here’s a short survey. Continue reading “Conservation and communication”