If you didn’t guess from the anatomical pun title, this blog post details the beginnings of my 10-week internship conserving the Thomson-Walker collection at The Centre for Research Collections conservation studio. As a recent MA graduate of art on paper conservation from Camberwell College of Arts I was looking for an internship that would give me the chance to gain project management experience as well as allowing me to become familiar with various printing techniques and how to treat them in innovative ways. This internship permits me to meet these aims as I am the first person to begin conservation work on this collection and shall be creating a treatment and rehousing program as well as undertaking research, experimentation and treatments to get the project underway.
The Thomson-Walker collection includes some 2,500 prints, which were bestowed to the University of Edinburgh in 1939 by Sir John William Thomson-Walker (1871-1937), a surgeon and committed print collector. The collected prints are mostly in good condition and convey portraits of influential medical men from the UK and Europe ranging from the 16th-20th centuries. The main conservation issue for this collection are the backing boards that the prints have been adhered to; the board is of low grade quality, which is not only destructive to the primary support but also prohibits the prints from being exhibited, digitised, or used as a resource for teaching. The unattractive and damaging boards and the tape used to adhere them to the primary support will have to be removed; I shall be experimenting with various treatment methods in the coming weeks in order to create a fast and effective programme of conservation which can be carried out by myself and the interns that follow after me. Additionally, the print collection varies tremendously in size and so I will also be investigating various storage solutions to rehouse this large group of artworks in a way that is not only cost effective but also accommodates how they shall be used now and in the future. Wish me luck, let’s hope my efforts aren’t in vein….
Post by Samantha Cawson, Conservation Intern