New Conservation Internship at the CRC

This week’s blog is written by our new conservation Intern, Holly, who is working on a collections rationalisation project within the rare books department…

I am now beginning my third week as an Intern here at the conservation studio, and thought I would take the time to briefly introduce myself and the project.

I am a current student at the University, studying for an MSc in Book History and Material Culture. The opportunities provided through this degree since it’s commencement in September have allowed me to realise fully a long-held belief in the irreplaceable importance of cultural heritage, and I soon wanted to get involved and gain experience in the field of conservation. As such, I have been a volunteer in the conservation studio since January, and when the advert for this internship was brought to my attention, I jumped at the chance.

Holly working in the studio

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Thomson-Walker Internship – Round 3!

In this week’s blog we hear from Clàudia Callau Buxaderas, who is the third in a series of interns to work on the Thomson-Walker collection…

It has been almost eight weeks since I started my internship at the CRC and sadly, this is already my last week working here. After graduating in conservation at the University of Barcelona, I worked as an intern in other institutions and studios around Spain and now I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work on the Thomson-Walker collection, a large collection of 2700 prints. I am the third conservator to work on this project, which has definitely been an advantage as I was able to start my work on the very first day. I have to thank the two interns before me for that, Samantha Cawson and Victoria Haddock, as they have provided detailed reports to help the future interns on this project. This information has been essential for me to get into the rhythm and way of working in the studio. In the same way, I hope to provide other interns in the future with some new ideas. Given the size the collection, it is always beneficial to find new ways and methods to speed up the work and to get the most of these (very short!) weeks.

Clàudia working in the studio

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End of an Internship

Victoria Haddock, the second in a series of interns working on the Thomson-Walker collection, reviews her time spent at the CRC in this week’s blog post. If you’d like to find out more about this project, you can view Victoria’s end of internship Powerpoint presentation at the bottom of this article.

As I watch another beautiful sunset from the window of the CRC conservation studio, it seems a good moment to reflect back on the past 10 weeks of my internship here, which have absolutely flown by.

Although I did think on my first day that I was looking forward to 10 weeks of solid tape removal, the internship has been very busy, varied and with lots of opportunities beyond what I first expected.

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Thomson-Walker Internship – Round 2!

This week’s blog come from Victoria Haddock, a recent graduate, and our second Thomson-Walker intern….

I am currently approaching the end of my fourth week of a ten-week internship working on the Thomson-Walker collection of medical portrait prints at the CRC conservation studio here at the University of Edinburgh.

I graduated earlier this year from the MA paper conservation course at Camberwell College of Arts and have been fortunate to have been quite busy over the summer with various short term contracts and was overjoyed to have been offered this opportunity here. It has been quite a whirlwind of new people to meet, things to learn and see in the last month and I’m sad to think it has already passed by so quickly.

Victoria in the conservation studio

Victoria in the conservation studio

There is certainly no fear of me running out of work to do though, with a collection of approximately 2500 prints to work through! I’m the second of a planned series of interns who will have to remove these prints from their current storage, where some anonymous person decades ago lovingly spent hundreds of hours taping all of these prints onto board and paper which has now become very acidic and brittle and prevents further conservation work or digitisation projects taking place. Like many conservation projects, I have to undo all of this work done with the best of intentions previously, and throw the unsuitable board unceremoniously into the recycling bin. You can read about the importance of good housing in this blog by Special Collections Conservator, Emily.

Boxes of prints, before treatment in acidic boxes

Boxes of prints, before treatment in acidic boxes

Boxes of prints, after treatment in acid-free boxes

Boxes of prints, after treatment in acid-free boxes

Following the procedures outlined by Samantha Cawson, the first Thomson-Walker intern (here is a link to her blog where she explains everything – with puns!), most of the adhesive tape (a paper gummed tape mainly) can be easily removed by applying lens tissue packages containing CMC (carboxymethyl cellulose) for anything up to 30 minutes, and peeling away the carrier.

Prints, during treatment

Prints, during treatment

It has been a great experience so far, and I have been fortunate to have gone on a tour of the National Library of Scotland’s conservation studio, be part of some of the studio tours here and the conservation taster days run for the students. It is a great place to work as there is always something amazing being brought in to the studio and there is also a fabulous view, which as many conservators will know, that not being consigned to a cold basement is a rare and wonderful thing!

Print, after conservation

Print, after treatment

A Fond Farewell

For the last ten weeks I have been working with Project Conservator, Emily Hick to conserve and rehouse a collection of rare Greek books. The weeks have gone racing by and now my internship has come to an end. In light of this, I would like to share a bit more about my internship experience at the Centre for Research Collections.

Working on the Blackie project with Emily has been a great way to gain insight into the planning and management of conservation projects. One of my responsibilities as intern was to record the time it took me to complete each task and the materials I used in the process. This was a really useful exercise as it made me think of how I could work more efficiently and be more resourceful with materials. I now feel that I am better equipped to plan and manage conservation projects myself in the future.

One of the great advantages of working on a project involving Greek books is that I can’t stop and read them! However, I have occasionally found some quirky things in the collections to distract me. My favourite by far is this doodle on the endpaper of an eighteenth century book. The image is of George Dunbar, professor of Greek at Edinburgh University from 1807 to 1851. It looks as if it may have been drawn by one of his students!?

Sketch of George Dunbar, Professor of Greek at Edinburgh University from 1807 -1851

Sketch of George Dunbar, Professor of Greek at Edinburgh University from 1807 -1851

My background is in Preventive Conservation so the internship has been an excellent opportunity to become more familiar with paper conservation. I have been able to learn a lot more about the interventive treatments of paper just by observing Emily and the other conservators at work. As most cultural heritage collections contain paper objects and books, the value of this knowledge cannot be understated. I thoroughly enjoyed having a go at some basic interventive conservation treatments during a Conservation Taster Day held at the CRC, where I learned to do tear repairs and infills on de-accessioned documents.

Having fun making tear repairs during the conservation taster day

Having fun making tear repairs during the conservation taster day

As a Preventive Conservator, I feel it is important to have a broad understanding of all materials and objects found in cultural heritage collections. Therefore, it has been particularly helpful for me to visit different parts of the University’s collections to learn how they are cared for. I have been able to visit the Musical Instrument Collections, the Anatomy Museum and the Art Collections. I was fascinated to learn about the treatments and techniques employed in the conservation of musical instruments. During my visit to the anatomy museum I was interested to learn about the practical ethical challenges in caring for collections of human remains.

Musical instrument conservation studio

Musical instrument conservation studio

Throughout the internship I have had access to training, which has significantly improved my knowledge and skills in both preventive and remedial conservation. I have received training on rehousing, disaster planning and designing collections databases. The training will undoubtedly improve my chances of finding employment once the internship concludes. I have also been able to get an idea of what is involved in running a staff training day by assisting Emma Davey, Conservation Officer, in preparing for the disaster response and salvage training.

Learning to make temporary boxes for books

Learning to make temporary boxes for books

Building wind tunnels during salvage training

Building wind tunnels during salvage training

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the Conservation Department at the CRC. I have been encouraged to get involved in all aspects of the Department’s work, from conservation and collections care, to public engagement activities. As a new graduate, the internship has allowed me to put the knowledge gained from my Masters degree into practice and given me more confidence in my abilities. The conservation team have all been very supportive and have given me lots great advice on career development. All in all, I think an internship with the CRC is an excellent opportunity for a new graduate, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone starting out in conservation.