Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Conservators' role in the recovery of cultural property

Conservators have a crucial role, to work together through their communities and international organisations, planning and communicating clear guidelines to aid appropriate decision making in times of conflict and emergency. In the light of recent disastrous events, from looting and deliberate destruction to natural disasters, recovery procedures should be reviewed. 

Issues in conservation of contemporary art

The conservation of contemporary art has practical and theoretical challenges provoked by aspects that may be intrinsic to some contemporary art works, which should be understood as part of the conservation process. Conservators worldwide have responded to these new challenges by developing innovative principles and methods.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Rodin's Dutch Thinker comes back to life

This poster focuses on the impact of 3D technologies as effective instruments to preserve, protect and document cultural heritage. Besides, as 3D digitalization is non-contact it helps to avoid unexpected problems that direct touch can cause. The chosen case of the Vandalized Rodin’s Dutch Thinker explains how useful 3D digitalization is to document, conserve and restore objects.

Digital technology

Digital technologies are used in many fields nowadays, including archaeology and conservation. Technologies such as different kinds of digital photography and 3D modeling may facilitate or enhance conservation work. However, these technologies are not perfect, and conservators still face many challenges when trying to incorporate them into their work.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Ephemeral Works: Approaches to Static and Living Street Art

Street Art is a wide field, ranging from static city murals to the ever changing world of graffiti tagging and grand works. This poster discusses Conservator approaches to Street Art, exploring the concepts of static and living in Dimitri Vrubel’s work on the Berlin Wall. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Is street art a crime?

Street art is an artistic movement emerging from the Hip Hop culture in New York City between the 70s and the 80s. In contemporary culture, this movement is at the heart of a lively debate. How can preservation be in line with its evanescent nature?

Friday, 1 December 2017

Participatory Conservation

In the last two decades, conservation has become more open to collaborations and partnerships with various interest groups and communication and mutual respect have become an important aspect of successful decision making. In these cases, conservators are presented with great opportunities to gather more knowledge about objects, but also have come to realize the limitations of their actions.

The state of public awareness of conservation in museums

Museum visitors are often unaware of what conservators do, and seem to only learn about conservators when an object is severely damaged. This poster considers three case studies to examine the efficacy of efforts at public engagement with conservation, and considers what more can be done to increase visitor awareness

Multispectral Imaging in Conservation: Opportunities and Challenges

Digital technologies offer potential for developing alternative and new conservation approaches but they also bring challenges. This poster focuses on multispectral imaging and discusses the opportunities this technology provides as well as difficulties.

Illicit Trade & Conservators

Looting and illicit trade of cultural material is a topic widely discussed currently. Lack of protection of archaeological sites, ease of transportation and high market demand for antiquities facilitate the theft of artifacts. Conservators face a dilemma when presented with stolen objects and must consider whether to perform a treatment.

Graffiti: What happens when it starts to gain value?

As graffiti starts to gain value within society the action of conserving the work becomes more likely. By comparing the works of two different graffiti artists it is argued that conservation alters the dynamic and geopolitical nature of the piece, therefore changing it into something else entirely. 


This poster addresses the struggle of conservators to protect and preserve the Cultural Heritage of a country burdened by perpetual conflict.  Syria is home to a number of sites and collections in danger of destruction. Conservators have been combating this danger, working to safeguard these important pieces of cultural history.


 This paper explores the feasibility of using virtual reality (VR) to train conservators. Novice conservators could use visuo-haptic training to hone their fine motor skills when dealing with delicate work. Conservators who practice salvaging works in emergencies could conduct drills more frequently and economically by using VR headsets.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Disaster Preparation and Recovery in Japan

Disaster recovery is an important part of conservation. Being able to react fast enough to prevent as much damage as possible to a collection is a part of a conservator’s job. In Japan where disasters happen regularly, disaster recovery of museum objects and cultural heritage is very important and needed.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Object Assessment: Paddle F.0013 (Solomon Islands)


(Source: UCL Ethnographic Collections)
Red and black pigments are very visible, loss of white pigment.
(Source: UCL Ethnographic Collections)
The handle is not as decorative as the blade.
Object F.0013 is listed and described in the Ethnographic Collections  at UCL’s Anthropology Department as a paddle – carved and painted in red, white and black designs. It measures approximately 165 cm in length by 15 cm at the widest point on the blade, and is only about 5 cm thick. The object has been claimed to be originally from the Solomon Islands, Melanesia, and previously held within the Wellcome Collections before entering the Ethnographic Collections. The paddle is light in weight and designed for aesthetic pleasure due to the painted carvings, which have remained somewhat intact, and induce the fact that it was not intended for hard, laborious ocean work. Haddon (1937, 84) notes that the blades on the paddles from the Bougainville and Buka islands in   the northern Solomons are an elongated oval, not so sharply pointed, and characterized by remarkable designs, sometimes human figures, in red and black paints and on a white ground.

There has been a tremendous amount of loss concerning the pigments, the white pigment in particular, which once covered the backdrop as suggested by the remaining stains appearing all over the background of the paddle. The blade forms an elongated oval tapering down towards the handle, and is not as sharply pointed as some of the other paddles within the Ethnographic Collections, nor does it have a decorative crutch. Haddon (1937, 84) has theorized that the whole blade may represent a fish. Paddle F.0015 is the most similar object within the collection.

(Source: UCL Ethnographic Collections)
Low relief carvings, almost undetectable without raking light.
The design on the paddle was carved in a very low relief by outlining the compositional components with a sharp implement and removing the surrounding wood to produce subtly raised images (Kjellgren 2007, 165). There are very small pieces of wood that seem to be splitting or cracking where some of the designs have been carved, as they are extremely brittle, which could be a consequence of changes in relative humidity. The object has been housed, uncovered on a large wall mount in the Material Culture Room along with numerous other paddles, held together with padded ties, leaving it exposed to dust particles and light damage. 

(Source: UCL Ethnographic Collections)
Damage is visible as chips to the black pigment and splits in the wood.
Melanesian dance performances are a complex cultural form with many purposes and significances, while most of them employ the use of many hand held objects, which possess a magical energy. There are many native groups among the islands that practice paddle dances, however the exact significance of these performances is unknown, they have been speculated to be focused on puberty, initiation, or death (Chowning 1977, 63). 


Chowning, A. (1977). An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Melanesia, 2nd ed. London: Cummings.

Haddon, A. (1937). The Canoes of Melanesia, Queensland, and New Guinea. Honolulu: The Museum. 

Kjellgren, E. (2007). Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

This post refers to coursework done for ARCLG142 (2016-17), one of the core courses of the UCL MA  Principles of Conservation. As part of their assessed work for this course, students were asked to investigate objects from the UCL Ethnography Collections at the UCL Department of Anthropology. Here they present a summary of their main conclusions. We hope you enjoy our work! Comments are most welcome.

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