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Robin Gibson: intern case study

conservator cleaning a ship model under a magnifying glass

A report from Robin Gibson, who completed a 12 month internship in the ship and historic models conservation studio in 2011.

Having a long interest in models and ships, as soon as the ICON HLF internship at Liverpool was advertised, I knew I had to apply. The opportunity to learn from a recognized expert in the field was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A comprehensive schedule of activities comprising of gaining theoretical and practical personal skills was developed by my supervisor to enable projects to be undertaken successfully and to consolidate knowledge gained during my degree course.


Ispahan half ship model prior to treatment Replacement parts for the Ispahan half ship model made and installed

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The first project was the half model of the Ispahan, a 1:48 scale three masted sailing ship dating from 1876. A condition report, treatment proposal and a final treatment report were produced. It was cleaned using conservation materials. My supervisor proposed an interventive approach, as without this it would have further deteriorated. It was clear that wood working skills would be required.

Training in basic wood working skills was provided, both using hand tools and machines. Graham Usher the furniture conservator kindly demonstrated the skills required to produce veneer from mahogany to restore the decks. Retouching was applied where required.

Cleaning the Albert and Edward with cotton swabs Repairing rigging on the Albert and Edward Albert and Edward after treatment

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A further project was the fully rigged model of the Albert and Edward, a 1:20 scale exhibition model of a 1906 Hastings fishing vessel complete with many accessories. Treatment undertaken comprised of recording, dismantling and dry-cleaning, followed by limited cleaning with non-ionic detergent, followed by tri-ammonium citrate 5% in water and then rinsed. Minor corrosion to fastenings was attended to, small repairs to rigging were carried out retaining original materials where possible and retouching where necessary. The model was repacked for further secure storage using cotton ties and an envelope of acid free tissue to prevent dirt build up during storage.

What have I gained?

Fresh from University and eager to gain experience and new skills in a chosen new profession, the privilege of being chosen as an intern at National Museums Liverpool, especially as a mature student, was an exciting prospect for me. The ICON HLF internship has enabled me to:

  • Gain invaluable work experience
  • Gain confidence in my abilities
  • Learn new craft skills from skilled experienced craftsmen
  • Work with specialists from other conservation departments on non-model related projects
  • Witness the construction process, installation of objects, and the opening of a new national museum
  • Develop an understanding of how the profession functions within a national museum environment
    Visit other national conservation studios
  • Meet other interns with other specialities and share experiences