Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Graffiti in the streets around Tahrir Square - the voice of the revolution

New graffiti started appearing around  Tahrir Square after the revival of the protests and tell a very informative version of what has been going on in Egypt in the last few months. 

Image from the blog Suzeeinthecity

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Art sold as scrap metal - the empty plinth of Barbara Hepworth's 'Two Forms'

Images from the BBC website
I wonder what we should call the theft of 'Two Forms', a bronze sculpture by Barbara Hepworth,  on open display at Dulwich Park until yesterday. It has been reported that the piece was probably stolen to be sold as scrap metal! This is not only vandalism, or crime - it is got to be called something else!
Hepworth was very keen on having people interacting with her sculptures, and thought some of them looked as invitations to climb. Somehow, this makes the theft even more depressing.
I wonder how much these very clueless vandals/criminals  will make. Perhaps they were enticed by the fact the sculpture is insured for £500,000. The bad news for them is that it is only worth all that much as ART, not metal.

See more  on the BBC or  the Guardian

Thursday, 15 December 2011

'Writing about conservation', new article on the Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies

Take a look at the latest article published on JCMS.
The new piece was written by Allan J. Hogg, one of the JCMS creators and now an instructor at the Sweetland Center for Writing (University of Michigan). In this really useful article Hogg gives guidance on how to write a good scientific conservation text. 
Hogg is part of the JCMS editorial board and will be writing regularly. Don't miss his articles if you sometimes find it difficult to write about conservation! 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Did Robert Brownjohn vandalize his own design?

Image from the New York Times 

If he did it was very successful! 
Brownjohn designed many famous pieces including the opening titles of 'Goldfinger' (1964) and the cover of Rolling Stone's 'Let it bleed'. For the latter he photographed a stack of round objects for the front cover, played with them and then presented their vandalized version on the back cover. 
If you have deep pockets you may be interested to know that part of his work is about to be auctioned in London. But if your pockets are not that deep then wait for the 200 pieces recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in NY to go on display!
Read more on the New York Times 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Are they the same?

By S.J.

This poster challenges common perceptions of rock art and graffiti. Many people think of modern graffiti as vandalism, and rock art as a high form of expression. Rock art and graffiti share numerous characteristics and themes often overlooked, especially by the media.

Target audience: Visitors to a museum to a related exhibit of graffiti or rock art.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Nude in all its Glory… and Shame

By S. Vasiliou

This poster aims to highlight the physical implications that conflicting socio-cultural and socio-political views have on works of art, focusing particularly on nude works in the 19th century. It presents examples of damage and alterations carried out, on statues and paintings, as a result of evolving philosophies, and explains why such actions should be defined as vandalism.
Target audience: Students studying conservation, art history and fine art.

Norwegian Black Metal & The Fantoft Stave Church Burning

By M. De Thabrew
This poster explores the role of those involved in the Black metal music movement and the Fantoft church burning in Norway through an interdisciplinary approach grounded in conservation issues. The poster provides an historical context of Norway and the significance of stave churches as cultural heritage and how this created conflict in the 1990s. This poster provides a contemporary case study for conservation students to draw many ideas from and provoke debate regarding vandalism.
Target audience: Conservation Students

The London Blitz: preventive and remedial conservation of cultural heritage

E. Bocaege

Damage to cultural heritage has received considerable attention in relation to its impact on society and potential use as a propaganda tool highlighting the “barbarity of the enemy”. In this poster, I consider preventive conservation measures taken in Britain before the Blitz, the extent of the damage caused by bombing and fire during the war and the consequent remedial conservation of museum collections in London, with a special focus on specimens from the Hunterian collection at the Royal college of Surgeons. Acknowledgments to Dr. Sam Alberti, Hunterian Museum director, for guidance and for allowing me to use images of the Museum.
Target audience: It will be particularly useful for visitors to the Hunterian Museum, but could provide an insight into the history of conservation for any museum visitor in London.

Rewriting History: A Look at Vandalism in 18th-Dynasty Egypt

C. Cutulle

In history as today, vandalism is an act imbued with meaning. This is certainly true of two 18th-Dynasty Egyptian examples—that of the Pharaohs Hatshepsut and Akhenaten. Hatshepsut’s rise to power as king was at the expense of her young stepson—the rightful Pharaoh. Years after her death, vandalism in the form of the removal of any references or images associated with Hatshepsut’s kingship is evident. Akhenaten’s striking religious reforms landed him the same fate. Through analysis, we are able to ascertain the desired result of this vandalism: rewriting Egyptian history to include only that which was orthodox.

Target audience: Audience specifically educated in the liberal arts such as art, history, archaeology, anthropology, etc.

Have you Seen This Monument?

By L.C. Stephens
See a larger version here
This poster is about the dangers of politically motivated destruction of monuments. Public monuments constitute part of our cultural identity teach us about our values and ideals. They must be able to be accessed by the public if they are to serve their main function which is to educate and memorialize aspects of our history for better or for worse.
Target audience: General Public

Kiss of death? Understanding the Vandalism of the Berlin Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime

By S. Thomson
This display explores a string of vandalism in 2008 at the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime in Berlin’s Tiergarten park. The poster identifies the events and probes the roots of homophobia in contemporary Germany. Many thanks to the memorial’s artists, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning.
Target audience: This poster would be displayed before the memorial as a supplement to the current plaque that details the history of persecution of homosexuals from 1935 onward.
S. Thomson will discuss details on why he decided to pursue 'Kiss of death' below. He will also tell us some really interesting details of his research.

Why do vandals strike? Be ready to act! A practical guide for heritage professionals

By A.M. Klups
Vandalism is one of the main threats to museum collections and historic buildings, and the problem cannot be undermined. Through communicating the topic and making heritage professionals aware of key ideas about how to ‘look for vandals in the crowd’, and how to understand the motivations of different types of vandals causers, many cases can be dealt with before damage occurs.
Target audience: The audience the poster is aimed at are heritage professionals and generally people employed in historic buildings and museums which admit visitors.

Safeguarding your local cemetery

By R.K. Burke
Raising awareness of the detrimental factors affecting cemeteries today including agents of deterioration and causes of deliberate damage. Promoting discussion and demonstrating the issues representing the concerns of the stakeholders and mourners. Recognising the significance of cemeteries as cultural heritage sites for their historic, social, architectural, and environmental values. Provide advice for local communities on developing effective management strategies for the preservation of the historic environment of cemeteries for future generations.
Target audience: Local communities, concerned stakeholders, Friends societies/charities for cemeteries, Local Authorities and interested scholars (conservators, archaeologists, local historians etc.).

Vandalism through destruction and construction

By C.T.
For centuries cultural vandalism has been taking place in Saudi Arabia under the guise of religion and urban development. Today this is no more evident than in Mecca, the holiest city for more than a billion Muslims worldwide. Historical sites surrounding the Grand Mosque have been demolished and replaced by skyscrapers housing high priced hotels, luxury apartments and shopping malls.
Target audience: Members of UNESCO

Ai Weiwei: Vandal?

By L. Stewart

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist whose works frequently involve ceramics. His destruction of ancient pieces raises questions about authenticity and value while engaging with Chinese history. When considering his body of work and the questions he raises, does his unique form of destruction make him a vandal? If it does, does the term necessarily hold a negative connotation?
Target audience: This poster is designed for an academic audience in a conference setting, ideally regarding modern or non-Western art.
L. Stewart will comment on her ideas and on why she decided to pursue this topic below.

Cultural Extension or Vandalism

By H.H.

See a larger version here

This poster attempts to depict and communicate a sense of conflict, which is caused by the cultural memorial heritage and modern function of Forty-four South Village. Even if the some of the villages are conserved by the reconstruction and regeneration project of the Military Dependents’ Villages in Taiwan, the new facilities present an asymmetry phenomenon against the original significance of the heritage. And the phenomenon thus triggers the theme of the open lecture for teachers on vandalism issue.
Target audience: Senior high schools’ teachers in History or Art

 H.H. will discuss her motivations to design this poster, and her creative process below.

Who Owns What: Nazi-Art Looting and the Question of Restitution

By S.N.

Nazi-looted art continues to be a controversial topic for museums in the present day. Museum Trustees and Directors should be aware of the provenance of their collections, and if they are the owners of stolen goods from Jewish victims, they should follow the numerous different professional and ethical codes presented by international societies, governments, and organizations.
Target audience: Museum Trustees and Directors, particularly in European countries

S.N. will comment on her topic and creative process below.

Vandalism caused through conflict – what happens next?

By F. Needham

Vandalism, especially when caused by conflict, causes lasting consequences to cultural heritage. Two case studies, namely the Bamiyan Buddhas and the Meroë Head/Head of Augustus, provide examples inflicted in modern and ancient times respectively. They also demonstrate that the damage caused varies, as while the Bamiyan Buddhas suffered destruction, the head ironically survived.
Target audience: The poster is designed to inform undergraduate archaeology students about the topic, as they do not necessarily know what the consequences of vandalism are when it comes to conservation of cultural heritage. It also might serve to interest them in conservation as a field of study after completing their archaeology degree.

Images of the Bamiyan Buddhas are sourced from Prof. A. Gruen ETH Zurich, and images of the Meroë head © Trustees of the British Museum.

Stop Cultural Vandalism

By D. Draudt

My poster is aimed to garner international support for Moscow's threatened architectural heritage and timed to coincide with the Royal Academy exhibition, Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935.

Target audience: Visitors of the Royal Academy exhibition Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915 - 1935, Royal Academy students and occasional general public.

Reverse Graffiti: vandalism? or rather a 'clean' way to advertise outdoors without causing any damage?

By M. Orsini

The aim of the poster is to illustrate the advantages of using reverse-graffiti as substitute to posters to advertise outdoors in a more conscious way, and without damaging surfaces or defacing urban landscapes/environment. It also plays with a certain dual identity of graffiti, which, through this usage may switch from being considered vandalism to being a possible response to 'corporate advertising vandalism', as such also causing us to question our very preconceptions regarding the nature of vandalism.
Target audience: City councils and companies who practice 'street branding'

Neglect: The Silent Vandalism

By A. Seadler

While the term vandalism conjures images of deliberate destruction of our heritage sites, this poster seeks to inform its audiences that the neglect of these sites is equally damaging. Although neglect may cause the loss of our historic treasures, it is preventable through individual and community initiatives. Target audience: Non-specialist, general public in the United Kingdom or the United States

A. Seadler will comment on her creative process below.

Don’t Write Me Off: Understanding Street Art

By D. Kuh Jakobi

While advocates perceive street art as a method of reclaiming public space, an uncensored forum for relevant socio-political commentary, or a method in which to display one’s art, opponents regard it as an unwanted nuisance, or as vandalism requiring expensive repair of the damaged property. Rather that viewing street art as random, pointless, or destructive, I hope to provide the tools with which to better analyze and appreciate the motives and art of street art.
Primary: art historians, urban historians, and sociologists (as well as students of these subjects) Secondary: city council members, building conservators, architects, and urban developers Additional: street art aficionados, connoisseurs, and collectors, as well as contemporary art gallery owners, curators, and street artists themselves
 D. Kuh Jakobi will comment on her creative process below.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Shakespeare Window. “What light through yonder window breaks?” “Ay, ay, a scratch. Marry, ‘tis enough”

By S. Rowe
The purpose of the poster was to use the Shakespeare Window to explore and challenge visitor ideas of what constitutes “vandalism” and to suggest why we occasionally deem some acts of vandalism as a positive addition to an object or place, as opposed to negative. In particular it questions how age, authorship and intention of the vandalism play a role in how we perceive it. Many thanks to Ann L Ethelridge for the use of her photos.
Target audience: Visitors to Shakespeare’s birthplace and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s exhibition space.

S. Rowe will discuss details on why she decided to pursue 'The Shakespeare window' below. She will also tell us some really interesting information she found during her research. 

Vandalism or Free Speech?

By J. Westbrook

This poster is meant to provide a starting point for discussing how to deal with contested heritage, by using US Confederate Monuments as an example. How should heritage professionals deal with graffiti and vandalism? Should we remove the monument? Should we leave the graffiti? How do we work to best represent all interests? Credit to the KFVS12 News website for providing the photos and news story about the monument in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Target audience: Heritage professionals (conservators, National Park Service officials, etc)

J. Westbrook, the author of this poster, will write about her motivations and creative process below. 

The Richard Serra Skate Park": Progressive Art Vandalized by Regressive Policy

By K.L.M. Becker

The poster uses two specific cases to illustrate instances of vandalism that have occurred in the public sphere by governing officials. The aim is to increase public awareness of the purposeful destruction of art and to encourage greater acceptance of conceptual art. The two cases presented are Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc (1981) and Crocheted Olek’s crocheted Charging Bull (2010); both art site specific, outdoor public works in New York City.

K.L.M. Becker, the author of this poster, will comment on her motivations to pursue this topic below. 

Vandalism of cultural heritage

If you follow this blog you probably know that I am very interested in the subject of vandalism and how different actions are perceived differently by different groups. It seems obvious to me that waging a war against vandalism is pretty useless if we keep  oversimplifying the underlying motivations and our understanding of these 'interventions'. In that regard, I am particularly interested in the messages embedded within different actions and what they 'tell' about the contexts where they occur. 

As part of the activities of the research networks 'Conservation & Development' and 'Ethnography of Archaeology' (see participants at the bottom) we started discussing some of these issues and decided to organize  a series of events to explore them with cross-disciplinary approaches and under different lights. 

The first step was to propose this  as the topic for an exercise in communicating conservation to the students of one of my courses at the Institute of Archaeology. You can see the proposal and the results here.

The students identified, examined and discussed an aspect of vandalism of their choice, various of which I had never considered. From today on, we will be posting and discussing some of these posters here. You should take your time to look at them, it is really amazing work! Hopefully we will be able to provoke some enlightening (and much needed) debate using the posters as a starting point. 

Colleagues involved in 'Conservation & Development' discussion focused on vandalism (so far): 
Ian Carroll, Dimitris Chatgiannis, Anne-Marie Deisser, Monika Harter, Jessica Johnson, Theano Moussouri, Corinna Riva,  Anastasia Sakellariadi & Carmen Vida. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Communicating Conservation: deliberate damage, destruction and vandalism of cultural heritage

Poster designed by H.H. 2011
See more here

Check out this page to see the amazing work that UCL Institute of Archaeology students have done.

As part of their assessed work for ‘ARCLG141Issues in Conservation: Contexts of Conservation Conservation’ students were asked to design a poster communicating an aspect of deliberate damage to cultural heritage of their choice. The following broad themes were suggested but students were encouraged to explore other possibilities as well:

  • Different kinds of vandalism/deliberate damage
  • Their motivations and/or implications
  • Common misunderstandings and oversimplifications surrounding these actions
  • The gap between how heritage professionals react to deliberate damage and the perceptions of the agents of these changes(and the groups they represent)
  • Relationships between deliberate damage and art
  • Roles deliberate damage may play in the understanding of the past/present
  • Prevention and responses
 See all the posters here.

And watch this space, we will be commenting writing about these posters in the next few days.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Relaunch of the Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies (JCMS)

I am delighted to inform that the Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies (JCMS), an Open Access and fully peer-reviewed journal, is being relaunched with a newly constituted international editorial board.  

We are currently welcoming contributions focusing on:

·         Collection and exhibition management  
·         Critical approaches to conservation, museum collections and exhibitions
·         Learning, communication, interpretation and evaluation of museums
·         Materials science and technical studies of objects, collections and conservation materials
·         Participatory processes
·         Professional and ethical issues
·         Remedial or preventive conservation

Check the JCMS website and get in touch with Renata Peters and/or Anastasia Sakellariadi if you wish to contribute to the relaunch.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Archaeological Conservation Summer Internships (2 internships) at Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Archaeological Conservation Summer Internships (2 internships) at Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies at Athens
Application deadline:  Monday 19 December 2011

The internships will give students an opportunity to treat freshly excavated archaeological finds and to participate in an active on-site conservation laboratory. Applicants must currently be enrolled in a graduate or equivalent conservation program. 

See more details here

Monday, 7 November 2011

Pudding anyone? Check your kitchen cupboard!

Christmas pudding tin, thought to be the sole survivor of a batch of puddings sent to sailors in 1900, is now on display at the Navy Museum in Portsmouth.  Apparently, it was found at the back of a kitchen cupboard! The tin still contains the original pudding but no studies have been reported -- very clear instructions can be read though:

"This pudding is ready for use but may be boiled for an hour if required hot." 

Read more on the Guardian

Conservation and Source Communities: Research, Objects and Treatments

There is still time to register for ‘Conservation and Source Communities: Research, Objects and Treatments’. A conference organized by the ICON Ethnography group, to take place at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, on 16th November. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

US withdraws from UNESCO after Palestinian approval

I first read about this news in a piece that appeared yesterday in the NY Times, "Unesco Accepts Palestinians as Full Members."

This article struck me as so timely considering our discussion tomorrow of UNESCO and other like-minded organizations. What impact do you think the withdrawal of US funding will have on UNESCO's preservation aims? I wonder if UNESCO was "caught in the middle" of US/Palestinian/Israeli negotiations, or is being actively utilized as a mediator by the organization's participants.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Altamira Cave, microbial strains and access

Altamira Cave, in the north of Spain. Image from Science & Technology 

Altamira Cave has had a long history of closing and opening to the public since its discovery in 1879. Access policies are about to be revised, again. However, according to recent studies carried out by Saiz-Jimenez and other scientists (see the article on Science 7 October 2011, pages 42-43) opening the cave for visitors  would have disastrous effects. 

Local authorities think otherwise, however, as the region has become an important touristic hub. There are some interesting points to debate here, such as how to define an access policy that will not compromise the cave or local development. Another important point would be the validity of the replica, that is, whether it provides an 'authentic' experience for visitors.

See a good discussion here For Cave's Art, An Uncertain Future, by Carmen Drahl

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Viking boat

Of course you are all aware of the remains of a Viking boat recently excavated in Scotland. See Maev Kennedy's article for the Guardian (19th October 2011) here   for more information. Don't miss the video. 
The boat has been tentatively dated to the 10th century, and would have been about 5m long and 1.5m wide. Some objects have been found associated with it, such as a knife, an axe, a copper alloy object thought to have been part of a drinking horn, dozens of rivets, etc. It is not yet clear where the material is being or will be conserved. Or displayed! But I am sure we will know soon. 
The excavations and studies of the material are being carried out by people associated with the Ardnamurchan Transitions ProjectCFA ArchaeologyArchaeology Scotland, and students and academics from various universities.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Importance of Educating and Engaging the Public

This past week, some members of the American arm of Occupywallstreet have turned their scrutinizing gazes towards cultural institutions that charge an entrance fee. Using the image seen here as a visual representation of their ideas, they have released a manifesto that condemned the practice of restricting access to cultural heritage and the perceived elitism of this institutional practice (you can read the statement here).

Although this post might be of a particular interest to our American colleagues, the implications of this statement affect institutions world-wide. This statement highlights how many members of the public still view our professions and the institutions for we work as elitist despite decades of trying to become more accessible to the community. This reminds us that even today, we must continue to constantly reassess our institutional practices and the values that they stand for (as well as how those values might be interpreted by the public). We must ask ourselves: how does the public view our institution? How do they view our interpretations of objects? How can we maintain relevance in our communities? How can we make ourselves, our objects, and our institutions more accessible to and better understood by the public?

More than this, we must consider how important it might be to make the public aware of the operation costs and the costs of maintaining the objects within the institution. We must ask ourselves how we can raise awareness for the importance of preservation management and maintain visibility within the museum so that our museum colleagues as well as the public can understand the implications of continual preservation and conservation. Now more than ever, it is important to engage in dialogue with the public community so that they are invested in the future (and funding) of their cultural institutions. (This second image provided by GOOD Culture and Cataloguetree in 2008)

Jobs for conservators

Object Conservator, Museums Resource Centre, Standlake
Closing Date:28 October 2011

Conservator of Ceramics , British Museum, London
Closing date: 31 October 2011

Conservator, Objects, Science Museum, London
Closing date: 25 November 2011

Conservator, Royal Armouries, Leeds
Closing Date:  7 November 2011

Stained Glass Conservator, Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury
Closing date: 10 November 2011

(Note that job titles are listed as publicized by employers)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Creative forms of looting

The Independent from 03/09/2011 had a very enlightening article on street art that was removed from its original context to be displayed, of all places, in a gallery.  Isn't this what some would call inside-out and upside-down?

After reading 'Hacked off: the art show that's driven Banksy up the wall' I started thinking whether this could be considered a new form of looting, vandalism, preservation or even whether this could just be a new form of art: gallery-street art? 

Re-construct Pompeii?

If you like reconstructions you should read Simon Jenkins' article on The Guardian (29/09/2011) arguing for the restoration of Pompeii. Actually, if you don't like reconstructions you should read it as well, but do so at your own risk!
Jenkins suggests that if we can restore a painting we can restore Pompeii, mainly because it is 'heartbreaking to see it decaying'. He seems to think he knows all about conservation philosophy and the disadvantages caused by what he calls the 'conserve as found' maxim. Somehow Ruskin and Viollett-le-Duc came to my mind...
Don't miss the comments!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Do academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist?

George Monbiot discussed the policies of academic journals on yesterday's edition of The Guardian. The piece is delightfully (or tragically) titled "Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist"

Mombiot's piece reminded me of many things I have always known, but I always take for granted. For example, I don't know anybody who has ever been paid a penny for writing for an academic journal. However, accessing these journals can be really expensive if you are not affiliated to a university. I did not know though how profitable academic journals  actually are. So, where does the money go? 

"...publishers claim that they have to charge these fees as a result of the costs of production and distribution, and that they add value (in Springer's words) because they "develop journal brands and maintain and improve the digital infrastructure which has revolutionised scientific communication in the past 15 years". But an analysis by Deutsche Bank reaches different conclusions. "We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn't be available." Far from assisting the dissemination of research, the big publishers impede it, as their long turnaround times can delay the release of findings by a year or more."

Unsurprisingly, Monbiot's piece generated numerous comments from the academic community, most of them elaborating on yet even more sordid details of this profitable business.  See more here. Don't miss the comments. 

Monday, 29 August 2011

Last few days of the super urban fox

Straw  sculptures are usually found in  harvest festivals. This one was inspired by the sculptures created at Snugbury's Farm in Cheshire, where the community come together every year to make a giant straw structure which stands through the summer.
 As part of their 60th anniversary The Southbank Centre invited Pirate Technics to 'transplant' this countryside tradition to London this year. The whole project took over 5 months to complete, see different stages here. The choice couldn't have been more iconic of a contemporary urban debate.

'Pet or pest debates' apart, this is a hugely cute fox. On display at the Southbank Centre until 4th Sept. Don't miss it, it is in every way, unmissable!

See a video of the fox's installation here

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Huis te Merwede - House at Merwede

I don’t know what it is that makes people travel hundreds of miles to see heritage sites in other countries while avoiding visiting their own local heritage sites. I have to say though that I’m guilty of the same offense. The ruins of a 600 year old manor house (Huis te Merwede – House at Merwede) are situated not too far away from my home in the Netherlands, and yet I’ve only visited the place twice.

In my defence, the first time I visited the ruin was about ten years ago during a long and hot summer. It took me a while to find it, as there were no signs to point me in the right direction and it was situated at the end of a dead-end road, between the trees. When I finally found it I discovered that the place was sorely neglected. There was waste lying everywhere, the walls were covered in graffiti, and the place smelled like pee. I didn’t even bother to take pictures, but just turned around and left.

Then when I went to visit the Netherlands a while ago I heard that a restoration plan of the site had been approved and that conservation work on the ruins had taken place since. The presentation of the site was also said to have been improved. Of course I was curious and set out to revisit the place to see how it had been altered for the best. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised!

An information board had been placed on the site explaining the history of the building, as well as showing some of the archaeological finds that had been dug up during the 1940s. I especially liked the reconstruction that was created to show both what the building had originally looked like and what part of the remains are still standing.

Unfortunately no information was given about the restoration work that had taken place, which is a pity, as I’m sure this wall has an interesting story to tell… How many restoration phases can you distinguish?

I did, however, manage to locate the website of the company that's responsible for the renovation work. The site is in Dutch, and can be found here: You might not be able to read it, but at the bottom of the site a lovely 3-D reconstruction movie can be found of what the building originally looked like.
One quote furthermore really stood out in the article on the website. It roughly translates to "At the reopening we received, the in my eyes best compliment, one of the city councillors said that it looked as if no work had been done on the building".

A picture of the building as it is currently situated, with a tough knight posing on the foreground!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Disaster preparedness (earthquake in Washington DC)

If you think your collections are safe because they are not housed in a seismic active area, THINK AGAIN!

Or perhaps look at what has happened in Washington DC during the 23rd Aug earthquake. Fortunately, damage to collections seems to have been very low, but I feel for all the colleagues working in those areas.

Follow the Smithsonian updates on damage to their collections here

Photo by James DiLoreto shows damage to the Bat Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Monday, 8 August 2011

"The curse of the moth"

The Independent has an insteresting article on what they call "the curse of the moth" on its Sunday edition.

They start it by saying that moths are back but this time "we don't have the balls to stop them", refering to the fact that moth balls were banned by the EU in 2008, due to their toxicity.

The article is very interesting as it shows the nuisance moths can be but I really was not at all aware they had been away!!

"Reports of infestations have risen sharply in the past six months. Some have attributed this to the demise of the traditional mothball, others to global warming. But, it seems, the real problem is us and our over-heated bedrooms full of more clothes than ever before, not all of which are as clean as they could be"
See more here

Sunday, 7 August 2011

HERITAGE 2012 3rd International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development

19th-22nd June 2012, in Porto, Portugal

Heritage 2012 aims at establishing a state of the art event regarding the relationships between forms and kinds of heritage and the framework of sustainable development concepts.

See details here:

Symposium 2011 - Adhesives and Consolidants for Conservation: Research and Applications

17th to 21st October 2011

Symposium2011 is being hosted by the Canadian Conservation Institute in partnership with Library and Archives Canada. 


Colloquium: The Life of Things - The Preservation of Ethnographic Objects and their Stories

November 11th and 12th 2011, Stuttgart, Germany

What are objects able to tell us? - About their makers and users, collectors, researchers and conservators, who have all left their marks. What do these tell us about people? In co-operation with the Linden-Museum and the German Conservators' Association (VdR) the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart will deal with these questions, considering especially the contribution of conservators to the "life of things".

Please visit the website for further information:

Workshop on conservation of feathers

Wednesday-Friday 9-11 November 2011

The Norfolk Museum and Archaeology Service is organising a  workshop on the conservation 
of feathers, to be hosted at the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service conservation studios, Norwich, UK.  

The workshop will be led by Allyson Rae who has extensive experience in the conservation of artefacts incorporating feathers.

Contact Helen Rush: helen.rush[at] to register your interest and for a draft 

Monday, 18 July 2011

Art and vandalism... such a thin line sometimes

We are all aware that what may be perceived as art by some may be perceived as vandalism by others - or, what is art to some may look like plain dirt to others... What to say about a Banksy's grafitti being whitewashed by a diligent Mr Ahmed a few days ago? The Daily Mail reported it with the suggestive headline Bye bye Banksy! Iconic painting whitewashed by bungling worker after building is transformed into Muslim centre. 

According to the newspaper Mr Ahmed was working on a building on Fishponds Road (Bristol) when he saw one of Banksy's most iconic images (a gorilla with a pink mask) and decided to whitewash it. 

Banksy's gorilla after being whitewashed
Mr Ahmed is reported to have said:
I thought it was worthless.I didn’t know it was valuable. That’s why I painted over it. I really am sorry if people are upset.

Mr Ahmed seems to be really upset himself, and has hired a conservator to try to remove the whitewash. Let's see how this unfolds.

The BBC News Magazine shows a different angle of a similar story. The article Who, What, Why: How do you graffiti-proof public art? discusses how the  Ebbsfleet Landmark Project is at risk because of the difficulties associated with keeping sculptures "graffit-free".  The project, a competition for an artwork to be placed in a public space, was jeopardized after the costs of keeping the winning proposal clean (Mark Wallinger's 50m white horse) were calculated: an original budget of £2m went up to £12m. 

The article includes the views of professionals involved with the Anti-Graffiti Association and the Design Against Crime Research Centre. Among other things, they discuss:
  • the use of sacrificial or permanent coatings to protect public art 
  • target-hardening techniques
  • community engagement

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How NOT to treat your paintings

The BBC needs a conservator. Will some one please help them?

I came to this candid conclusion after watching episode 4 of Fake or Fortune, a BBC series where "journalist Fiona Bruce teams up with art expert Philip Mould to investigate mysteries behind paintings". Episode 4 focusses on a painting up for auction in South Africa - the painting is suspected of having been looted/stolen during WW2 and the series'  presenters think it could be a Rembrandt...  How exciting. 

Well, it was not very exciting  to see the art expert initiating the journalist on the wonders of using cotton wool to apply white spirit on the painted surface so as to enhance the details of the painting for a few seconds. When the journalist shows hesitation (well done, Fiona, you were right, you should not do that!) the art expert 'expertly' explains that it is okay, as "it is not acetone" and therefore, according to him, it will not damage the varnish.

How does he know? Has he tested the varnish? Has he tested the paint layers underneath? Let's hope he did because the same action was repeated  various other times during the programme. I can't help but wonder whether they really had to teach a lesson on how NOT to treat any painting, let alone one suspected to be a Rembrandt.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Riace Bronzes: warriors from a watery grave

The two life-size copper-alloy ancient Greek warrior statues are currently being re-conserved in an open studio at the Regional Council exhibition hall in Calabria, southern Italy.

If you haven't seen these two incredible bronzes, it's really worth having a look at the Riace website - Their conservation and theories about their manufacture are really interesting and quite controversial.

Found by a snorkelling chemist in only eight metres of water in the Ionian sea in 1972, their conservation has been a lengthy and continuing battle against salts and concretions. They were mechanically cleaned for two years in Calabria before being transported to the restoration centre of the Soprintendenza Archeologica of Tuscany for desalination. Unfortunately, the first attempts were carried out with the salt-laden casting cores still inside the statues, so they weren't massively successful.

Work continued through the 1980s and 90s to try to stabilise the bronzes and excavate fully the casting cores, which could only be done through very small holes in the feet of the warriors. A huge amount of information has been revealed and published (in Italian, mostly) in three lavishly illustrated volumes (from 2003, I bronzi di Riace: restauro come conoscenza. Roma:Artemide) and several articles.

The current conservation programme seems to be aiming to undertake chemical cleaning with benzotriazole, to investigate the solders used and to map the ancient repairs. It would have been so interesting to see how this could be accomplished in front of the public, and how the interventions were explained. Unfortunately, there was no time or money for a field trip to Calabria! But if you find yourself in that part of the world, do try to visit the Regional Council exhibition -

Monday, 27 June 2011

Midsummer in London streets: City of London Festival

From the City of London Festival website
The City of London Festival has some some exciting events this week. 

I am curious to see the WAKA ON THE THAMES, when a Maori war canoe takes to the Thames crewed by 16 Maoris of New Zealand’s Toi Maori and London’s Ngati Ranana, in full traditional dress. (Friday 1st July at 10:30)

There will also be a HAKA, a traditional Maori dance performed by  New Zealand guests Toi Maori and London’s Ngati Ranana. (Paternoster Square, Friday 1st July at 13.00)

And  Origins Family Day, a celebration of First Nations with guests from across the South Pacific, music and art activities. (Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath, Sunday 3rd July  from 12.00 to 7.00pm)

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