Autumn 2003 Issue 45
It is with the deepest regret and sadness that I begin this editorial with the announcement of the death of Elizabeth Martin, Senior Photographic Conservator. Liz had been with the Museum for many years and was greatly respected for her professional skills and knowledge of the collections. She shared her skills freely and willingly with conservators and students and was a popular member of the Department. She will be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues.
‘Regions’ are on the government agenda for museums. The first round of money is available for the creation of regional hubs, and national museums are being encouraged to share skills and expertise to help create centres of regional excellence. Raising awareness of the nationally important items and collections spread throughout the country, in local or regional museums, within churches and other heritage properties, through exhibitions such as 'Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547' is just one of the ways that Nationals can contribute. Several of the papers in this Journal focus on the development of the Gothic exhibition and the associated preparatory conservation work. They highlight the skills and expertise that conservators and scientists bring to an exhibition team. Preparation of any exhibition takes many years, but when it includes the removal of stained glass windows and tomb effigies from their original church settings it takes significantly more planning and organisation. Conservators have travelled the length and breadth of the country assessing the condition of items, advising on their transportation and subsequent display mountings. As part of the Gothic team, they have contributed their professional skills, not only to ensure the objects are cared for but also to build the trust and confidence of local communities. Whilst the curators highlighted the national or cultural importance of the pieces, the conservators provided reassurance that they would be cared for to the highest standard throughout the loan to the V&A. We hope that the new relationships formed during the preparation of the Gothic exhibition will be maintained and developed in the future.
The V&A Conservation Summer School in Derby is a more conscious and direct way in which the Department is involved in the Regions. As the article by Professor Trevor Brown highlights, there is a need for skills and expertise from Nationals to be made locally available to regional groups. As a contributor, I was struck by the commitment of the participants to make a positive difference to the care of their collections. Providing access to our specialist knowledge of materials is invaluable for a local museum without a conservator and a limited budget. Acknowledging the regional need for conservation articles to be published in general heritage journals, rather than exclusively in specialist conservation journals, will influence our approach to publications in the future.
Finally, I would like to end on some good news. I am delighted to announce the promotion of Shayne Rivers of Furniture Conservation to Merit Band 3 and Joanne Whalley, Metals Conservator to Band 4. Both thoroughly deserve this recognition of their professionalism, quality of work and contribution to the Museum.