Saturday, 30 April 2011

Preservation equipment

I don't know what I do on the internet, but I always end up at the strangest sites (anyone remember the Exhumation Service site?)! This evening I was browsing the net when I stumbled on a site that sells "preservation equipment".

PEL - giving history a future

Naturally I was eager to explore the site further to figure out what items conservators cannot live without...

Tyvek Hooded Coverall, on sale at PEL

Furthermore interesting were the Battery operated electric eraser, the Barricade Tape (always wanted to brighten up my room with some orange tape), the Water Alarm (works like a smoke detector guarding against water leakage) and the Wind up Torch (think of what you can save in batteries!).

There's also an interesting section about new developments in the preservation equipment field. Because "At Preservation Equipment Ltd we are always looking to bring the latest products and innovations to the market".

New developments are amongst others: Quake Hold Museum Putty, the Heavy Duty Awl, Book Deodorizer (but who does not love the mouldy smell of old books?) and the Ultrasonic Spot Welder (only 2,895.00 pounds!).

Friday, 29 April 2011

Scientist at work

I just discovered the 'Scientist at Work Blog' hosted by the NYT. The blog is supposed to be used as a field journal where people can report the findings of their scientific expeditions.

The lasted post is a Q&A on Maya archaeology, by Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan of the University of Arizona  who excavated the site of Ceibal in Guatemala.

Previous posts include Anthony Di Fiore of New York University on a study on the behaviour of male spider monkeys in Ecuador. Stuart Sandin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography compared the coral reefs of inhabited and uninhabited parts of the Line Islands.  Douglas Stotz of the Field Museum and Nigel Pitman of Duke University took a biological inventory of a vast  area in Peru's northern Amazon. And many more...

Thursday, 28 April 2011

ICON internships 2011-2013

Icon is offering 3 Internships of 6,12 and 18 months as part of their Skills in Practice programme. 

There are placements in Preventive Conservation, Conservation of Paintings, Conservation of Books and Bound Materials. These are aimed specifically at recent conservation graduates eligible to live and work in the UK.  

See more here

Deadline for applications: 3 June 2011

Free webminar on digital preservation - Today

Preserving Your Personal Digital Memories
Thursday, 28 April  2011
2 pm EST (GMT -5 hours)

Part of a series hosted by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. 

Sign up here

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Stumbling on treasures in the backyard

It was reported last week that a man found a  600-year-old treasure in his backyard in Vienna. The trove is described as having more than 200 rings, brooches, belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates.... 
Mr. Andreas K. (his full name is unknown) found the objects in 2007 but underestimated their value and left them in his basement since then. He is reported to have stumbled on the findings again, when packing up to sell his house. At this point he was able to see the objects underneath the dry accretions and decided to post some images on the internet. After being alerted of the possible value of the jewels he reported the findings to Austrian authorities. The chronology of these facts is unclear. 

See more details, and sensational images on the Art Knowledge News website. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Bullfighting declared 'intangible heritage' in France

UNESCO has granted bullfighting  the status of intangible heritage in France. 

This happened after strong lobbying both from groups pro and against bullfighting . FrenchNewsOnline gives a very informative report on the issue, below is an excerpt:
"The drive to win protection through UNESCO, began on December 13, 2009, when the Union of French Bullfighting Cities (UVTF) applied for recognition by UNESCO of French bullfighting culture as part of the country’s intangible heritage. UVTF claimed that “bullfighting is based on respect for the bull’s genetic heritage, a beast which by virtue of its role in the local pastoral eco-system helps preserve many other types of animals."
Look at the following websites (listed on FrenchNewsOnline) in case you are in doubt whether this was a good move. All I can think now is that bullfighting is not very intangible from the bull's point of view!

Pro bullfighting:
Le Club Taurin Mouriesen
All the bullfight arenas in France, including Arles
Fans of the corrida

Against bullfighting: 
Cas International
Stop Corrida
and Stop Bullfighting

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Should banks hire conservators to conserve their money?

It looks like the answer is YES, and not only because banks have not been doing a great job in terms of investments!

A preventive conservator could probably have helped protect £137,000 (10 million rupees) from greedy termites in north India. The story is still a mystery but it looks like the termites managed to get inside a steel chest and munch the cash it contained. The police of Barabanki, a town near Lucknow, are investigating the case.
See the whole report here

Goodbye street-art as vandalism...

JR'S intervention in Nairobi, Kenya. Image from JR's website
I wonder if the days when street-art was considered controversial are gone.

Coming to think of it, was it ever really controversial? I am not sure as the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of street-art are names and wonders of Rivera, Tamayo, Orozco... Ok. Maybe it has always been really controversial!
How do the muralists relate to contemporary street-artists? The Mexican muralists were as political as they come and I suppose the contemporary ones are not neglecting that 'requirement' either - although much of their edge is based not only on their politics but also on their anonimity. But that is also changing!

The Independent  23/Apr/11 has an article (The world's biggest gallery, by Guy Adams) discussing how this genre is changing due to the internet and its far-reaching audiences, not to mention the big cash associated with some current street-art and/or street-artists... Don't miss their amazing slide-show.

And, check out JR's work in detail on his website. Or the old and powerful Chicano Art from the 1960s. Unmissable!

Painting conservation materializes 'warming ties' between China and Taiwan

A report on The Independent shows how conservation may mean much more than the mere physical reintegration of a painting. 
Two pieces of "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains", a 660-year-old painting  by Huang Gongwang have been held by separate institutions since1949 - one piece in Taipei, another in the Zhejiang province of China. They are about to be reunited for a 40-day exhibit in Taiwan, as a signal of warming ties between the governments of China and Taiwan. 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Futureproof Plastics: symposium on plastics

Date: 18 May 2011
Venue: Bournemouth, UK

The V&A and  the Arts University College at Bournemouth are holding a FREE symposium on plastics. 
The day is being held in celebration of the EU funded Preservation Of Plastic ARTefacts (POPART) in museum collections project.

Attendance is free but numbers are limited so if you are interested please contact Susan Lambert on 01202 363121 or slambert[at] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Further information:

The Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Plan

The Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Plan is now online on the PAS webiste.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Underwear Revolution at the Oxfordshire Museum

Sarah Morton, conservator at the Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service, is featured in an article at the BBC Website where she talks about the new exhibtion at the Oxfordshire Museum (which displays pieces from early Anglo-Saxon times to modernity). Sarah discussed this exhbition in a talk she gave at the UCL Institute of Archaeology last year; the BBC website reports her saying "People may never think of underwear in the same way again". ( ! )

See the whole article on the BBC Website, and don't miss the exhibition, open until 12th June.

The Oxfordshire Museum is at Fletcher's House, Park Street, Woodstock, OX20 1SN

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Development vs conservation (?)

Aynak, Afghanistan, located about 20 miles from Kabul holds one of the country’s most important Buddhist sites (comparable to Hadda and Bamiyan). However, it is currently under threat because it sits on a large copper deposit -- for which a Chinese state-owned company agreed to pay £1.9bn for the extraction rights.  For details, see the excellent article by Jon Boone, published by the Guardian in November 2010.  

The Art Newspaper tells of a rescue excavation in operation right now. Intricate stupas have been revealed, with vaulted corredor and various important finds, such as a 7 metre-long reclining Buddha, wall paintings, a pair of large feet, an ancient wooden (!) Buddha, among other things. Some of these finds have been transferred to the National Museum in Kabul, where they were on display. The site suffered from widespread looting in the early 2000s, hence the statues with missing heads, or feet without bodies.

Although the mining project will bring significant revenue to the country it is not clear how much sustainable development it will bring to the region. Or, for that matter, how much of it will revert into actual improvements for the local population. There are, however, reports of governmental plans to build a new museum near Aynak, and of moving some of the stupa bases and reconstructing them in the new museum.

Despite the imminent loss of important archaeological remains, not to mention the overall impact on the environment, the mining project has not received much international attention.

Filling and retouching symposium + Call for papers on vellum and parchment

Two very different and interesting conservation 'events' in the near future. The Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) is organizing a symposium on filling and retouching. And the Journal of the Institute of Conservation is calling for papers for an issue dedicated to parchment and vellum. See details below.

Filling and Retouching: Paintings and Painted Surfaces
Monday 23 May 2011 09-30-17.00

Will take place at the Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht.

The symposium will highlight materials and techniques used for filling and retouching lacunae in finishing layers.
Registration deadline: 1 May 2011
Cost: Euro 85 euro and Euro 40 student
Registration forms are available on request at info [at]

Parchment and Vellum Special Issue

The Journal of the Institute of Conservation
Volume 35 issue 2, Autumn 2012
They are looking for articles on:
  • Historical documents, illuminated manuscripts, codices, or an object with a vellum element.
  • Investigations on the identification or deterioration of vellum or parchment
  • New treatments
  • Management and care
Send an abstract to the Journal Editor, Janet Berry journal [@]
Deadline for completed articles is 31 August 2011.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

I will survive AUSCHWITZ

A German friend send me the link to this video yesterday. I'm not sure if you've seen it before, but it caused quite a row in Germany and angered the Jewish community! The video in question is made by Jane Korman, an artist from Melbourne, who made a video of her father and either 3 of his grandchildren and his son, or 4 of his grandchildren dancing on the number "I will survive". The location? Kamp Auschwitz where the grandfather had been imprisoned during WW II. The grandfather said it was a "a celebration of his survival and ability to share history with his grandchildren".

In the video below you learn a bit more about the problems that some people have with this video. I found it quite frustrating that someone now working at Auschwitz said it could "diminish the significance of Auschwitz".

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Art Fund Prize 2011 for museums and galleries

Here are the ten museums running for £100,000 Art Fund Prize 2011. See the whole report on the Art Fund Prize website. 
  • British Museum, London, A History of the World 
  • Hertford Museum, Hertfordshire, Hertford Museum's Development 
  • Leighton House, London, Closer To Home: The Restoration and Reopening of Leighton House 
  • Museum
  • Mostyn, Llandudno, Wales, Refurbishment and extension of Mostyn gallery
  • People's History Museum, Manchester, The new People's History Museum 2010
  • Polar Museum, University of Cambridge, Promoting Britain's Polar Heritage
  • The new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Scotland
  • Roman Baths Museum, Bath, Roman Baths Development
  • V&A, London, Ceramics Study Galleries
  • Yorkshire, Letting in the Light
You can express your preferences here.

This year there is also the Clore Award for Museum Learning, supposed to "recognise and celebrate quality, impact and innovation (relative to context) in using museums and galleries for learning activities or initiatives – for formal or informal learning audiences – which focus on the development or deepening of skills, knowledge, understanding, values, ideas, feelings and enjoyment."

This is the long list:

"The oldest gay in the village"

Found it today on the Daily Mail.

"The skeleton was found in a Prague suburb with its head pointing eastwards and surrounded by domestic jugs - rituals only previously seen in female graves. Men would normally be buried with weapons, hammers and flint knives." Picture from DailyMail

I don't know. It seems a bit bold to me to say: "He's burried with pots. Obviously he must be gay!"

The Telegraph has also devoted and article to it.

Vandalism and the power of Perspex

Another case of vandalism emerged earlier this week when a woman tried to damage Paul Gauguin's "Two Tahitian Women", on temporary display at the National Gallery in Washington DC, on loan  from the Metropolitan Museum. See report on the BBC website.

Apparently the woman, a Ms Burns, tried to pull the canvas off the wall. The canvas was protected with Perspex though, and no damage was inflicted. The wonders of acrylic sheeting! The painting is back on display.

Ms Burns is reported to have claimed the painting is bad for children, because it has nudity. It has also been reported that she claims to have a radio in her head. Oh, well, let's not go there! This has raised some interesting debate on the alleged power of nudity, among other things. See Jonathan Jones' blog for an insightful debate along these lines.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Welcome back home, Morgantina Aphrodite!

Take a look at this very interesting posting about the return of Aphrodite to Aidone,  its original site in Sicily. Some big lessons to be learned from this! 
Cultural Heritage in Danger: Returning archeological artifacts to local communities: the example of the Morgantina Aphrodite

I was particularly interested in their analysis of  how the restitution of significant artefacts may impact on various aspects of the local community: 

"... as reaffirmation of the right to one own cultural patrimony, and as opportunity to use the cultural heritage for helping and improving the economy of local disadvantaged communities through sustainable cultural tourism. The network formed by the Aidone’s Archaeological Museum, with its growing collections, the Morgantina’s Archeological site, and the Villa Del Casale - a Roman villa in the near town of Piazza Armerina, which contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, and it’s one of 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy – can be an example of how to preserve and convey historical and cultural values of a specific heritage site in accurate and engaging ways, at the same time integrating its economic opportunities to the area where it is located, and in doing so sustaining and improving the local quality of life."

And, take a moment to digest their views on the "universal museum approach"!

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