The conservation department have recently undertaken the conservation treatment of a bust of Alfred Williams.
Owned by the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery the bust has links to two prominent Swindonian artists. The bust is of Alfred Williams who worked for Great Western Railway in Swindon for many years. In his spare time he looked to improve his knowledge learning languages including Latin and Greek, reading the classics and learning about the natural world around him. He started writing in his early twenties and published a number of works, both poetry and prose, throughout his lifetime leading to him becoming known as ‘the hammerman poet’.
The creator of the bust is Swindonian artist Carleton Attwood. Although Attwood worked in many more traditional materials, this bust is made from moulded concrete. Some of his other well known public commissions are “Golden Lion” in Regent Street and “The Watchers” at Toothill Village Centre.
The conservation of the object has been undertaken to improve the condition of the bust so that it can be placed on display. Over the years a layer of dust and dirt had built up on the surface of the bust, as well as it being subjected to graffiti in the past.
This leather sedan chair was on display at the Assembly Rooms, Bath. Staff from the Roman Baths Museum and Pump House contacted CMAS conservators with concerns about the condition of the item following an active pest infestation in objects displayed close to the chair.
The chair was removed from display and treated to remove the pest infestation using a non-destructive heat treatment.
On closer examination following the pest removal treatment it was determined that the chair was too fragile to return to display, and in need of a little TLC.
The leather exterior had been damaged and repaired a number of times during the life of the object. Notably, blue chalk script on a back panel identifies HF Keevil as the repairer of the chair in April 1942 following an air raid!
Many of the old repairs were failing and risked more significant damage if the loose areas were caught. Some small areas of fresh damage and loss had been noted, possibly due to areas being caught and knocked whilst the item was on open display; a common occurrence, for example by the bags of unsuspecting visitors.
In addition the textile interior was extremely fragile with large splits and tears and unravelling braiding.
Due to the size of the item, its fragility and the combination of materials from which it is composed this project has proved challenging. The complexity of the textile repairs necessitated the expert assistance of specialist textile conservators from the studio Textile Conservation Limited. The large size and the fragility of the sedan chair’s surface meant that transportation was not recommended, requiring the work to be carried out on site.
The Museum of East Asian Art in Bath currently has an exhibition showcasing some of their exquisite Chinese Metalwork and the conservation work carried out on the objects by conservators here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The aim of the exhibition is to show that by carefully cleaning and looking after objects we can ensure they will be treasured for generations to come.
The objects on display are highly decorated often involving the use of, gold and silver or other coatings such as lacquer and enamelling. The presence of additional materials and decorative coatings makes the conservation of such objects more complex and so poses more of a challenge. Each of the treatments needs to be picked carefully to ensure the work carried out on one of the materials does not adversely affect any of the others.
My name is Beth Werrett and I am a Contract Conservator for Wiltshire Council Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS). I conserve objects for and provide advice to archaeological units, museums and other heritage organisations as part of the commercial branch of the service. A year ago I decided that, having worked for nearly five years at a variety of heritage organisations since first studying for the profession, I felt that I had developed sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to apply for professional accreditation.
What is Accreditation?
Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers or PACR assesses a conservator's professional practice within the work place. It allows a common standard to be applied across the profession, regardless of the training route taken, the conservation specialism, or the context in which a conservator may practice. An accredited conservator demonstrates a high level of competence, sound judgement and an in-depth knowledge of the principles and ethics which are key to conservation practice.
Why did I decide to apply?
The benefits of achieving accreditation were both professional and personal. For the Wiltshire Conservation Service it is beneficial to have accredited members of staff; their clients can be assured that they are working to consistently high standards.Achieving accreditation would be a significant personal achievement, providing recognition of the breadth of skills and expertise that I had developed since qualifying as a conservator. Also, I felt that the structure of continual review in place within the PACR system would help me to maintain my high standard of work and prevent me falling into bad habits!