Autumn 2002 Issue 42
News from RCA/V&A Conservation
RCA/V&A Conservation is the Programme of specialist postgraduate training and research run jointly by the V&A and the Royal College of Art, in association with Imperial College of Science,Technology and Medicine. However, the network contributing to the considerable success of the programme is considerably wider than this and encompasses several other museums, galleries and heritage organisations. This is amply illustrated by the graduating students of 2002, whose practical work, projects and research will advance the field of conservation and contribute to the nation’s cultural life.
Six students received their degrees from the Provost of the RCA, Lord Snowdon, in a ceremony at the Albert Hall. Dr. Thanasis Velios was based in the Sculpture Conservation Section of the V&A Conservation Department and was supervised by Dr. John Harrison of the Rock Mechanics Department of Imperial College and Professor Alan Cummings of the RCA. Thanasis’ research concerned the reconstruction of fragmented objects with the aid of three-dimensional computer models. He developed a new methodology to address the problems encountered when many heavy and/or fragile fragments of an object have to be manipulated in order to find joints; the broken surfaces are first matched digitally, thereby minimising risk to the actual fragments.
A second PhD student, Dr. Francesca Cappitelli, based at Tate and supervised by Dr. Tom Learner and Alan Cummings, investigated the chemical characterisation of binding media in 20th century art. Artists’ uses of non-traditional paints, including house paints, create problems of identification and a need to develop new analytical techniques. Francesca’s study of thermally assisted hydrolysis and methylation – gas chromatography/mass spectrometry developed an approach applicable to both natural and synthetic binders.
RCA/V&A Conservation’s MA courses offer vocational conservation education in a range of highly specialised areas. Where there is a need for such training that cannot be met within the V&A or where another institution offers particular expertise, we collaborate to provide tailor-made opportunities. Unusually, all four graduating MA students this year were in such a situation.
The MA graduates of 2002 are:
Kathryn Hallett MA, Conservation Science with The British Museum
Hannele Hentula MA, Conservation of Ethnographic Materials and Musical Instruments with the Horniman Museum
Kirsten Kruse MA, Conservation of Social History Objects with the Museum of London
Neil Wressell MA, Conservation of Modern Sculpture with Tate
MA students work on the collections of the host institutions in a real, professional environment supervised by senior staff. They also undertake a busy academic programme. The high standards achieved by our students are reflected by the fact that two of them are among the three short listed candidates for Student Conservator of the Year in the Pilgrim Trust Conservation Awards 2002, the profession’s top award scheme. One, Kathryn Hallett, submitted her project on the effects of light on cellulosic materials such as fabrics and paper. The other, Annie Hall MA, graduated in 2001 and studied with the V&A Metals Conservation section. Her project concerned the conservation of a gilded 14th century Tibetan sculpture of Buddha, particularly the ethical issues surrounding the removal of its sacred contents.We wish them good luck and look forward to the announcement of the winner at the awards ceremony at the British Library in November.
Visit the RCA/V&A Conservation Programme at
or contact Joanna Baden, Department Administrator