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  • Conserve It! Part IV – Filling and Finishing Touches

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 July 2013

    This is the final installment of the excellent Conserve it! blog series, written by four conservation students from the Institute of Archaeology. In this post Leslie Stephens and Louise Stewart describe the last stages of the process.

    To read the full series please click on the ‘Engineering Collections’ or ‘Science Collections’ category tabs on the left hand side of this page.

    Conservation doesn’t end when all the pieces are back together. Once researched, cleaned and reassembled, the x-ray tubes will need further work. Filling gaps and preparing the tubes for storage are the final stages in the process.

    Why do conservators fill gaps in objects? Fills are usually undertaken for two reasons: aesthetics and support.  When an object has most of its pieces remaining, it is frequently the job of the conservator to make an object look as complete as possible so that visitors are aided in its visual interpretation. When the object’s original material is fragmentary, it is often difficult for visitors to understand what it would have looked like before damage. The more material is missing, the harder this job is for the conservator. There is a fine line between aiding interpretation for the visitor, and presenting an object that is too much ‘interpretation’ and not enough original material. If the conservator is not certain what the missing fragments would have looked like, they are less likely to fill that area with a ‘guess’.  When there is very little original material left, however, fills sometimes hold fragments in place. This happens especially when there is not enough original material left for the object to hold its own weight; these types of fills are considered support fills.

    (more…)

    How To: Be a Good Museum Pest

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 20 June 2013

    Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This new blog is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The first along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

    How to: Be a Good Museum Pest

    There are two types of creepy crawlies that you get in museums; ones that don’t eat specimens (i.e. creepy crawlies that fair poorly at being museum pests) and ones that do eat specimens (these typically do well at being pests).  First, you need to decide which you are. If the thought of eating dried cartilage, wooden drawers, paper labels, certain glues, feathers, or fur turns you off… go away, you’re a rubbish pest. However if the opportunity to chow down on the internal remnants of an animal skull makes you salivate, then continue reading my friend, this how to guide is for you. (more…)

    Supporting conservation as an individual with no money

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 May 2013

    In today’s world I find we are surrounded by charity adverts ready to make us feel bad for not immediately delving into our wallets for our credit cards. I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of people would make the world a better place (in the traditional sense) if they could, but in today’s economic climate (man that phrase is getting old), the weight of the world’s problems can feel like too much to bear but are all too easy to ignore. Fear not, I have a plan…

    Let’s say that after you have budgeted for the essentials each month; rent, electricity, dinosaur lego, wifi, food; you decide that you can commit £2 a month to saving the world one species at a time. How and where will you spend said precious mound of pennies? (more…)

    Conserve It! Part III – Reconstruction

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 24 May 2013

    This is the third installment of the Conserve it! blog series, written by a team of UCL conservation students who are working on four damaged objects from the Medical Physics Collection. Here Louise Stewart explains how they have gone about reconstructing the smashed tubes.

    Now that our background research is done and we’ve considered the various significances the objects, we come to the most time-consuming step of conservation: the actual treatment! In this case, the main portion of treatment for all four of us is the reconstruction of the glass bulbs of the various x-ray tubes.

    All of us working on reconstruction of the x-ray tubes!

    All of us working on reconstruction of the x-ray tubes!

    (more…)

    Conserve it! Part II – Research and Investigation

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 27 February 2013

    The second instalment of the Conserve it! blog, written by Miriam Orsini, details the research and analysis that conservators have to undertake before they even begin to work on objects. Particularly exciting for me is the photo towards the end of this post showing one of the X-Ray tubes glowing green under UV light! I had no idea they could do this…

    Probably one of the most exciting things conservators must do before they start conserving an object is researching and analysing the object itself. This is the moment when the object starts to talk to you and tells you its story. In this post we are going to share some of the pretty amazing stories which these X-Ray tubes have told us.

    We started with some preliminary research using the internet and academic literature to find out more about what kind of X-Ray tubes we were dealing with, and to try to understand their functioning and to date them. We realised that the tubes represented four stages in the history of the manufacture and design of X-Ray tubes, from  earlier examples to more modern models.

    Example of a Jackson Tube (From UCL Medical Physics  Display)

    Example of a Jackson Tube
    (From UCL Medical Physics Display)

    Advert for X-Ray tubes showing a Jackson Tube (centre)

    Advert for X-Ray tubes showing a
    Jackson Tube (centre)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    My tube (above) is an early example of an X-Ray tube known as Jackson Tube or Focus Tube. This particular example was produced by a company based in London, Newton & Co. The presence of the company’s name and address, Fleet Street London, inscribed on the metal plate contained in the tube, led us to think that the tube was made before 1930, when the company moved from Fleet Street to Wigmore Street. (more…)

    Conserve It! Getting Started

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 February 2013

    This is the first in a series of blogs written by conservation students working on objects from UCL’s Medical Physics Collection. Over the the next few months the students will keep us updated on their progress. This initial blog was lead authored by Katherine LM Becker.

    On December 13, students from UCL’s MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums, their course co-ordinator – Dean Sully, the UCL Collections Senior Conservator – Susi Pancaldo, and UCL Museums curator – Nick Booth, met to discuss a new project!

    Kate Becker and Miriam Orsini get their first view of the objects.
    (Photo by Leslie Stephens)

    During relocation of the Medical Physics Department’s collection, Nick Booth encountered four objects in need of conservation and, through Susi Pancaldo, was able to bring the objects to the conservation lab to be treated as part of student portfolios! Four students elected to participate in the project: Katherine Becker, Miriam Orsini, Leslie Stephens, and Louise Stewart. Together, we hope to gain new experiences and challenge ourselves with potentially complex glass reconstructions. From the beginning we thought that the best approach to the project would be for each student to be responsible for one object, but for us all to work as a group in problem solving and to make cohesive decisions.

    (more…)

    Pinocchio’s not the only one who’s been inside a whale

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 November 2012

    WhaleFest 2012

    The entrance to WhaleFest 2012

    The entrance to WhaleFest 2012. Image by Emma-Louise Nicholls

    The sounds you hear in the main hall are those that would be heard on any SCUBA diving trip. The main difference being that every few seconds in this particular extravaganza of acoustic delights, whale songs and dolphin clicks break through the background noise. With very little imagination you could believe you really were underwater as a large number of life size whales and dolphins surround you and blue and green streams of crepe paper hang from the ceiling, looking like waves in the dimmed lights. This was WhaleFest, making an exquisite entrance into my life. (more…)

    Guest blog: Old London Bridge: Recovery from Disaster

    By Krisztina Lackoi, on 26 October 2012

    GUEST BLOG: DAVID JONES

    Old London Bridge: Recovery from Disaster

    On Tuesday 9th October David Jones, Paper conservator, UCL Special Collections, curated a Pop-up display ‘Old London Bridge: Recovery from Disaster’. Sections of a 17thC panorama of London before and after extensive conservation treatment were presented and discussed in the context of the Art Museum’s current exhibition ‘One Day in the City’. Below is David’s account of this fascinating object and the process involved in bringing it back to life following severe flood damage.17thC view of the Thames, with severe flood damage

    UCL Libraries’ Special Collections hold not only a vast amount of extraordinary bound materials, but also treasures like this London panorama. This is Robert Martin’s 1832 lithograph copied from the Wenceslaus Hollar engraving published in 1647 A View of London from Bankside.
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    Getting plastered

    By Rachael Sparks, on 18 October 2012

    Term started a few weeks ago; new students, fresh with the mud of PrimTech on their boots have finally managed to locate their various lecture rooms and labs, and now the serious work of becoming an archaeologist can begin. For the Institute of Archaeology Collections, this means that our objects are once again in high demand for teaching.

    Clay slingshots from Arpachiyah in Iraq, a cheap but effective weapon in the right hands. Hundreds of these were discovered, only going to show that sometimes neighbours are after more than a cup of sugar

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    Animal record breaking

    By Jack Ashby, on 28 June 2012

    So far I’ve been very good at not linking activities at the Grant Museum to the Olympics. While I’m out here on ecological fieldwork in the remote northwest savannahs of northwest Australia, The Games have been very far from my mind. However, the phrase “new record” has been bandied about quite a lot here this month, and now I find myself writing a post that has nothing to do with the Olympics, but I’ve now already mentioned them three times. I appear to have jumped on the bandwagon of making a spurious link – something that everyone seems to be doing these days. Apologies.

    I’m currently working with a small team of ecologists catching animals on wildlife sanctuaries and cattle stations to monitor the effects of cattle and fire management on the ecosystem. This year we’ve caught a fair few animals in areas in which they’ve never been seen before. The excitement of being part of these new records is definitely personally valuable, but I’ve also been thinking about how these single pieces of data are potentially more valuable than all of the other single animals we catch.

    (more…)