Conservation Student- Claire Hutchison

In this week’s blog, Claire, our first placement student of the summer describes her experience of working with us…

My name is Claire and I am a conservation student from Northumbria University, specialising in paper conservation. This is the first of several voluntary work placements I must carry out as part of my Master’s degree. Working at the conservation studio the past two weeks has challenged me to work with new materials outside of my specialism.

Claire working in the studio

I have been working on artworks that will be displayed as part of the University’s new exhibition, ‘Highlands to Hindustan’ which goes on display at the end of July. My role was to conserve the works where needed, but to also improve the storage and display of the objects. This meant a great deal of multi-tasking and time management.

A copper plate charter was one of several objects which needed rehousing and safe display. The copper plates had originally been stored in a jiffy bag; this was swiftly replaced with a box that had been fitted with Plastazote to ensure safety during transport. The copper plates themselves had very little present in the way of protection; very thin sheets of paper had been placed in between each plate to prevent any abrasion. The paper was ill-fitting and needed to be replaced with something sturdier.

Upper left: acid-free paper copies of the plates before painting. Upper right: paper plates after painting. Lower left: Detail of the copper plates. Lower right: The intended display of the plates for the exhibition.

For display purposes, the old paper was replaced with acid-free paper that had been cut to match the shape of the plates. These were then painted, and a slit was cut to allow the paper to slide into place. I was very happy with how they came out; they should be very discrete during the exhibition.

Left: The Tyvek cover slip. Right: The Tyvek cover slip on the copper plate

The next step was to create small pouches to cover each plate during storage. Tyvek, a water resistant product, was cut to match the shape of the plates.

Although my time here has been short, my work in the conservation studio has been incredibly rewarding; I cannot wait to start my career in conservation!

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