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Eleanor Baumber: intern case study

A report from Eleanor Baumber, who completed a 12 month objects conservation and public engagement internship in 2011.

conservator cleaning a fan

Having previously completed an undergraduate degree in conservation and a subsequent Masters degree in Museum Studies, the internship has provided me with the opportunity to combine my practical conservation skills with my museological understanding of the need to engage the general public in issues associated with conservation and collections care.

Objects conservation

During my internship I have undertaken practical work on objects for the new Museum of Liverpool across the ceramics, organics and metals conservation departments.

This has included conserving a 19th century porcelain wall sconce made by Meissen and a 19th century silver filigree Chinese export jewellery set in a lacquer box, as well as this fan:

Organics conservation project: Applied faces fan

Summary: 19th Chinese export fan with applied ivory and textile decorations. The fan sticks are telescopic allowing them to be condensed for compact storage. Some of the applied decoration was lifting and a lacquer stick had broken. I was required to conserve the fan ahead of display in the new Museum of Liverpool.

Setting up drill for dowel repair The fan after treatment Packing the fan for transport

Click on each thumbnail to see a larger image

Skills involved:

  • Research repair option for broken stick
  • Undertake complex drilled dowel repair to broken stick
  • Create transport crate
  • Liaise with education department to integrate information about conservation of fan into education programme

Public engagement

The public engagement aspect of my internship has involved a wide range of projects, including demonstrations and displays, events, school visits, writing posts for the blog and filming a video.

Public events

I have been involved in the planning and running of events at National Museums Liverpool's venues, focussing on a variety of conservation themes. Being able to feature objects that I have personally worked on has been particularly rewarding

Engagement online

Throughout the year I have contributed to the National Museums Liverpool blog, reviewing conservation events and projects. Read my posts on the blog|.

I have also been filmed for a short video for the website about the conservation of a Chinese sewing table. It has been a whole new experience being in front of a camera!

Supplementary experiences

During my internship I have been fortunate to undertake additional opportunities, including:

  • Completing Chemistry for Conservators
  • Undertaking SEM and X-Ray Training
  • Co-ordinating volunteer projects
  • Preparing for the repatriation of an Australian mummy
  • Attending the National Museums Liverpool Collections Management training programme

Reflections

My internship has far exceeded my expectations. As well as refreshing and developing my practical skills, I have gained experience in working towards the opening of a large-scale project, the Museum of Liverpool.

In December 2010 Reveal, the National Conservation Centre's public exhibition space dedicated to conservation engagement, was closed due to government spending cuts. Its closure marks a significant loss to the sector and illustrates the impending challenges faced in pursuing the development of public engagement in conservation. However, my internship has continued to open up new and exciting alternatives, therefore demonstrating what can be achieved despite difficult times.