Thursday, 29 November 2012

Geography, museums and collections

Seminar organized by the London Group of Historical Geographers
Programme, Spring 2013 

22 January 2013
Caroline Cornish (Royal Holloway)
Reconfiguring objects, refashioning spaces: the Kew Museums of Economic Botany 

5 February 2013 
James Wallis (University of Exeter)
Oh! What a lovely exhibition! Exploring the Imperial War Museum s First World War fiftieth anniversary displays, 1964 1968

19 February 2013
Claire Wintle (University of Brighton)
Decolonising the Smithsonian: American foreign policy and colonial collections, 1945-1970

5 March 2013
Nicholas Thomas (University of Cambridge)
Pacific presences: encounter and experiment in the European museum

19 March 2013
George Lovell (Queen s University, Ontario)
The archive that never was: state terror and historical memory in Guatemala

These seminars are held on Tuesdays at 5.15pm in the Torrington Room 104, South Block, Senate House, University of London.

For further details, or to have your name added to their e-mail list, please contact Felix Driver, Royal Holloway ( or Miles Ogborn, Queen Mary (

Unpaid internships at the CCI

See details about unpaid internship at the CCI. 
Watch out for close deadline: 15 December

Saturday, 17 November 2012

#Twinkierevolution by J F Ellis

#Twinkierevolution by J F Ellis is the last of a series of conservation posters designed by UCL/Q Principles of Conservation students to be posted here. 'Principles' is one of the core courses of the UCL/Q MSc Conservation Studies, coordinated/taught by me in Doha. Each poster explored a specific conservation issue and tailored it to the targeted audience. The posters were accompanied by a paper where the same issues were explored in more depth. Unfortunately you will only have access to the posters!  But watch this space and you will certainly know more about the amazing work these conservation students are doing!
You can see all the posters in this blog by scrolling the page down or on our UCL page

#Twinkierevolution by J F Ellis
Abstract: social media is a dynamic force manifested into a tool of modern expression, both politically and personally across the Middle East. What follows shows how this force can play a large part in the development of Middle Eastern views toward the conservation of cultural heritage. By examining stereotypes of terminology, their contemporary origins, and definitions against regional understandings we can find new methods for public outreach within the cultural heritage sector. New uses of technology have given the most marginalized groups in the region a voice. Why can't it give objects a voice as well?
Target: Geared towards issues of interest to both conservators and cultural heritage museum professionals of the Middle East and beyond. This poster can also be a tool to educate people outside these realms and hopes to spark interest in the cultural heritage sector.

Preservation of endangered artifacts and sites in areas of conflict By E Demarche

Preservation of endangered artifacts and sites in areas of conflict By E. Demarche

Abstract: The aim of this poster (and accompanying paper) is to provide cultural heritage professionals working in areas of conflict with ideas and guidelines on how to best preserve objects and sites of archaeological and cultural value. This is done by discussing possible actions and through the use of past examples of both successes and failures. A special thank you to Ms. Laura Childs and Dr. Laurie Rush for helping me find some sources of research.
Target: Cultural heritage professionals (i.e. archaeologists, curators, conservators, et cetera) who are located and working in areas where objects and sites of cultural and archaeological value.

Neutrality, Objectivity and reversibility: fact or fiction? By T K

Neutrality, Objectivity and reversibility: fact or fiction? By T K
Abstract: The present poster explores the concepts of neutrality, objectivity and reversibility. Although such long held tenets have guided conservation interventions since the mid-twentieth century, dynamic social changes are calling them in question.  In addition, their roles in decision making process in relation to the current approach of conservation are being thoroughly examined.
Target: Conservation students (Approximate Age: 18-23)

Conservation and sacred tradition by T Hudson

Conservation and sacred tradition by T Hudson

Abstract: In cases of in situ conservation of religious heritage, the original custodians are not only important stakeholders but can also be valuable resources for the conservation process. Conservators must approach such situations with a sense of openness to different value systems and the possibility for mutual education. Case studies demonstrate positive instances of preservation and continuity achieved through cooperation and communication.  
Target: Museum professionals, conservators, conservation students

Contemporary Art: Authenticity & Replicas by S Kavda

Contemporary Art: Authenticity & Replicas by S Kavda
Abstract: This poster uses case studies of conceptual art to introduce notions of authenticity and replicas  in eastern and western cultural contexts. It points out the need to alter conservation approaches towards contemporary artworks, as they contradict  some aspects of conservation ethics. The aim is to highlight that it may not be unethical to replicate contemporary works of art when materiality is not its central value.
Target: Professional art conservators, especially contemporary art conservators.

Balancing the intangible by E B

Balancing the intangible by E B is the first of a series of posters designed by students of the course Principles of Conservation to be posted here. Principles of Conservation is one of the core courses of the UCL-Q MSc in Conservation Studies, taught by R Peters in Doha.  We will be posting other posters here soon. Watch this space!  ffff

Abstract: The intent of this poster is to present the recent changes in methodology and perspective within the conservation profession. While classical conservation has tended to concern itself with the object and material components of an ethnographic object, the field is changing to accommodate interests in a collaborative and dynamic process with authority given to the living cultures from which the objects originated. Particular focus here is given to the living, intangible and sacred cultural heritage of North American Native and Indigenous peoples.
Target Audience: Museum visitors, with a specific emphasis toward those who might be considered amateur ethnographers as well as undergraduate students of museology and conservation.

The Maya: climate change and Spanish conquest

Two interesting articles about the Maya emerged recently. The first refers to research done by Archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) whereby evidence indicates the Maya living in an ancient settlement of Mexico's east coast endured appallingly miserable lives during the Spanish conquest of the 16th century. 

"Found in the recently opened archaeological site of San Miguelito, in the middle of the hotel chain area of Quintana Roo, near Cancun, the human burials were excavated within 11 housing buildings dating to the Late Postclassic Mayan Period (1200 – 1550)... Archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) estimate that at least 30 burials belong to infants between the ages of three and six. The majority suffered from hunger and most likely died of related diseases." 

The second item refers to the research published on Science magazine and discusses the influence of climate change in the rise and fall of the Maya. See excerpt from the NYT below:

"The early classic Maya period — about A.D. 450 to 660 — “was remarkably wet,” said an author of the study, Douglas Kennett, a geo-archaeologist at Penn State. “There was a proliferation of population, an increase in agriculture and a rise in divine kings that became prominent leaders.” ... But then things dried up. The researchers compared the climate record with an existing “war index” — a log of hostile events based on how often certain keywords occurred in Maya inscriptions on stone monuments — and found a strong correlation between drought and warfare between cities. ... “About A.D. 660, you get indications of some social stress that goes up in tandem with this drying period” ... Maya cities were linked, but each operated with its own autonomous political structure. When resources were strained, the groups may have turned against one another. Over several hundred years, “the social fabric was eventually destabilized,” Dr. Kennett said. Most Maya cities collapsed between A.D. 800 and 900."

See more info about this on News Discovery, the NYT and Science 

Did this feather headdress belong to Moctezuma II?

This headdress is believed to be one of the most fragile objects in the Museum of Ethnology, Vienna. A group of Austrian-Mexican experts spent two years studying, analyzing and conserving it as part 
of a project organized by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) in Mexico and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. 
The outcomes are said to be published soon - let's hope very soon! 

"The project focused on anthropological, historical, iconographic and conservation questions. Materials, technique and older restorations of the feather head-dress were analyzed. Its present flat appearance dates back to the restoration carried out in 1878 that had erroneously identified the feather head-dress as a standard. This resulted in the object’s loss of the three-dimensional shape it had had as a head-dress. At the time over 370 new small metal plates, feathers and skins of kingfishers were incorporated. The feather head-dress comprises a wealth of different materials: organic ones such as feathers, plant fibres, wood, leather, paper and textiles, but also non-organic materials such as gold and gilded brass. The friction and abrasions caused by these materials and the artifact’s age have compromised its state of preservation and complicated its conservation. The aging process of the organic materials has resulted in irreparable, brittle and fragile areas. Although the object has been stabilized with careful interventions and preventive conservation measures its original condition cannot be recreated. However, after careful cleaning and various conservation measures the feather head-dress can now be put on public display again after an absence of many years."

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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

"Insinuendo: Murder in the Museum", a conservation mystery by Miriam Clavir

If you are a fan of Miriam Clavir's work you will probably be interested to know that she has now published a novel, in her own words, a conservation mystery: Insinuendo: Murder in the Museum

Clavir says the novel is a character-driven m
ystery more in the genre of a cozy than a thriller; it has tension (and humour) but won't give a reader nightmares. Here’s a brief description she sent us:

Insinuendo: Murder in the Museum 

Berry Cates has undergone a “radical lifectomy”, remaking her life at fifty-three, newly single and in a new career. In her first job as anartifacts conservator at the Museum of Anthropology, she is faced with answering why a visiting expert died from arsenic housed in her lab.
Determined to prove false these accusations against her and the conservation lab, Berry instead gets into deeper trouble. Her sleuthing uncovers museum staff casting illicit bronzes and blackmail being delivered via a Roman curse tablet. The conservation of a painting reveals evidence of curatorial fraud. Arsenic was an old preservation method used against insects and now Aboriginal people are accusing the museum of poisoning their heritage regalia with pesticides.
Only when Berry realizes she has been asking the wrong questions does she stop sliding down the snake of museum deceit. Dial M for Museum.
ISBN: 978-1-897411-38-4; trade paperback; publisher: Bayeux Arts
(Distribution: Literary Press Group of Canada/LitDistCo; University of Chicago Press Distribution)

Clavir thanks MOA for generously allowing the museum to be the site of this fictional murder and mayhem.

Thanks for letting us know, Miriam, I can't wait to read it!

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