Autumn 2003 Issue 45
Elizabeth Martin 1947-2003
Elizabeth Martin, Senior Conservator of Photographs, known to everyone as Liz, passed away suddenly at home on the 13th September.
Liz studied Graphic Design in Bath and went on to take a Teacher’s Diploma before teaching art and design for several years. In 1976 Liz joined the V&A’s Conservation Department as a paper conservator. She appreciated quickly that a new field was opening up and in the late 1970s and early 1980s she applied herself to the study of photographic materials. In 1982 Liz became the first specialist photographic conservator in any of the UK’s national museums. The following year she contributed an essay on photographic conservation to the V&A’s book, A Guide to Early Photographic Processes. Liz soon built up an international reputation as a leading expert in the field of photographic conservation and in 1988 her immensely readable book Collecting and Preserving Old Photographs was published. For several years Liz actively participated in the coordination of the ICOM-CC Photographic Records Working Group, helping to organise a number of the group’s meetings. In the early 1990s Liz’s important research work on nineteenth century albumen prints by Clementina, Lady Hawarden was published in several journals. This work showed that the albumen prints were getting darker even whilst off display, highlighting the need for cold-storage systems.
Liz put her teaching skills to good effect, passing on her knowledge to numerous students – she was in constant demand to take on fresh interns. Liz also taught conservation at the Academy of Fine Art in Stuttgart and at Camberwell School of Art and was due to go to Stuttgart again this December to give a series of lectures. Liz had an enviable selection of shoes and an equally colourful dismissal of jargon. She was erudite and witty with an uncanny ability to see to the heart of the problem be it personal or professional. Liz had a wonderfully quirky collection of objects – little gifts that undoubtedly reminded her of people and places she had encountered along the way. She also shared her love of worn and musty paperback crime novels with friends around the Museum.
We all know her son, Rupert, very well – an indication of how incredibly proud she was of him. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Rupert. Liz was a dear colleague and friend and will be sadly missed. Liz was Liz – irreplaceable.