Conserving Water Lily

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Ship model of fishing boat from Rye

My name is Gemma and I am a conservation intern at the National Museums Liverpool. I am here on a year long internship in Ship and Historic Model Conservation, funded by ICON (Institute of Conservation) and the Heritage Lottery Fund. As I am now nearly half way through my internship, I have had many interesting and exciting projects to work on which I would like to share, so I will put regular updates on the blog.

Unsurprisingly, model conservation is a very specialist branch of conservation and so far I have learnt many new conservation treatments and crafts skills to conserve and repair models, as well as getting the chance to make some of my own boat models. Historic models, far from being similar objects, can be made from a huge range of materials, which makes each project fascinating and exciting to uncover the models history!

One of my recent projects was the conservation of a ship model of a fishing boat from Rye, the “Water Lily” (Accession number: L1963.17.4). It is a beautifully made model, complete with a planked deck, fittings, fully rigged and with silk sails.  It was in relatively good condition, but it was a little dirty and some of the green paint on the hull had flaked off. I began the treatment by vacuuming the surface using a Museum vac over mesh; gently brushing the sails to dislodge dirt. To remove the dried on dirt a small amount of detergent in deionised water was effective, applied with a cotton wool swab. I decided not to wet clean the sails, as this can have repercussions with shrinkage etc, so I used a smoke sponge (vulcanized natural rubber) to gently lift the dirt off the surface. Then all that was left to do was retouch the losses in paint using acrylic paint, which can be easily detectable and removed.

The model is not required for display at the moment, but it has been carefully wrapped to be placed back into storage, where it will remain clean and happy for many years to come.