Summer 2004 Issue 47
The V&A's partnership with the Royal College of Art in the RCA/V&A Conservation MA Course creates a positive and proactive approach to education and training in the Conservation Department.
The Department, and the other museums involved with the Course, are proud of the MA graduates; their theoretical ideals are balanced against the realism of day to day work and their practical competency is the result of working on national and designated collections alongside conservators who are leaders in their field. The students are taught to reason and question, to explore and to form opinions; the museum environment tests and broadens those skills through involvement with planning, development and decision making. Cross institutional research projects (Graham Martin) reinforce that innovation; opportunism and synergy are key to the development of conservation practice of the future. This partnership, which also includes the student, is what makes the course unique (William Lindsay).
The participation with the MA Conservation Course develops the Department; when students question techniques and make comparisons with other institutions (Portugal study trip article) staff are compelled to ensure they can debate issues with confidence. Keeping up to date with current literature and maintaining and developing awareness of materials and techniques is essential to conserve the collections and to educate. The lacquer workshops (Sarah Medlam and Zoë Allen) are an example where students, staff curators and external colleagues benefited individually and collectively from a training experience. Lectures and talks arranged through the RCA/V&A Conservation programme benefit staff as well as interns and placements in the Department (Val Blyth).
The 'uniqueness' of the course is being challenged by the conflicting government agendas; funding for educational institutions is dependant on attracting ever increasing numbers of students; museums are embarking on more ambitious gallery developments and loan programmes to increase access to their collections. Reconciling the need to increase the number of MA places with the need to optimise access to practical conservation skills is increasingly difficult. Adding to this the recognition that the roles of the conservator are changing (as highlighted by the forthcoming UKIC Conference in Liverpool), it is clearly time to review the Course, to ensure that it remains relevant and available to the profession for the future (Alison Richmond).
This edition of the Journal also includes a summary of the Departmental Away Day (Alan Derbyshire). Although this now seems far away the results of the day are very much with us. Issues which affect anyone working in a large institution, such as communication and departmental and individual recognition were explored and ways of maintaining or improving our professional role within the Museum (and beyond it) were identified. Actions have been incorporated into this year's departmental objectives to ensure that the energy and ideas that were generated are not lost through inaction.
Finally, and returning once again to the excellence of the RCA/V&A Conservation Course (and confirming that I do mean everything I have written!), I would like to congratulate Sherrie Eatman, who on completion of her MA this summer joins the permanent staff in the Conservation Department as the Stained Glass Conservator for the V&A.