Summer 2004 Issue 47
The Internship and Placement Programme at the V&A Conservation Department
V.Blyth, Intern Co-ordinator; M.Walklin, Intern Administrator. Photography by Gordana Car (click image for larger version)
The Department is committed to providing opportunities for mid-course and practising conservators to work within the Department to develop their skills and expertise. The internship programme at the V&A attracts a wide range of applicants from all over the world, with current interns coming from Croatia, Belgium, Germany and Austria. Since the beginning of 2001 26 internships have been hosted at the V&A. The links which are formed between this Museum and other international institutions results in an interesting understanding of cultural exchange.
Interns at the V&A are invited to attend seminars and lectures provided for the MA students on the RCA/V&A Conservation course. They attend departmental seminars and may also be encouraged to attend meetings organized by UKIC and IIC and similar professional groups. From time to time there are opportunities for interns to visit fellow interns in other conservation studios and see the work which is being undertaken. These studio visits have been established recently as a direct result of feedback from interns at their exit interview.
All interns are required to write a short report of their time spent at the Museum. A report from Kathrin Rahfoth, a recent Stained Glass Intern, follows.
My Experience in the Stained Glass Conservation Studio
I first came to the V&A in 2002 for a six week placement. A year later, I spent a further eight weeks here, before taking up a six month internship as part of my final year of a four year course on the conservation of stained glass and mosaic at the University of Applied Sciences, Erfurt, Germany.
During the current placement I have concentrated on the practical conservation treatments of various panels from periods and provenances that reflect the Museum's extensive collection. These have ranged from early 12th century panels up to late English and Swiss 18th century panels, covering a variety of techniques such as enamelling, glass engraving, as well as the traditional leaded and painted glass.
Figure 1. St. Michael: Before treatment, Eglington Margaret Pearson, 18th century. Museum no. Lost 37.4. Photography by Kathrin Rahfoth (click image for larger version)
During the last six months I have also undertaken my own research project. The work by Eglington Margaret Pearson (died 1823) is of particular interest to me. There is limited published literature on late 18th century English glass. It appears to have failed to attract the attention of art historians - I think without a good reason. I have also tried to identify the materials and techniques used. Pearson's work is typical of much of the painted window glass from this period, ignoring the use of lead lines to define the design and relying heavily on enamelling applied in a very painterly style (Figures 1 and 2).
The work in the Museum has given me a range of different opportunities when compared to work in a private workshop. I have had the chance to work on the exhibition Gothic: Art for England 1400 - 1547, seeing how the stained glass panels were installed. Work on panels for loans to Ely Stained Glass Museum and Tate Britain have highlighted some different aspects to consider when treating panels intended for viewing in an exhibition or museum in comparison with panels that are reinstalled in their original architectural environment.
Whilst in the Conservation Department I have taken advantage of the wealth of expertise in other specialisms. Nicola Costaras (Painting Conservation) has given advice on a range of topics from the treatment of paintings to removing paint from an original painted glass surface. The Ceramics and Glass, and the Furniture studios have also been very helpful. While at the Museum I have really been accepted as a member of the Conservation Department and have enjoyed good times both in work and after!
Figure 2. St. Michael: After treatment, Photography by Kathrin Rahfoth (click image for larger version)
I have been keen to gain much practical and theoretical experience while working at the V&A. The variety of panels has helped me to familiarise myself with different types of materials and their use in stained glass panels. It was very important for me to develop an appreciation for different attitudes towards conservation and the different methods used in the treatment of objects. I was also able to bring my own experiences to the work. My time here has been valuable experience I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Conservation Department, especially Helen Bower and Sherrie Eatman for their help and Drew Anderson who trusted me to carry out the practical work.
Guidelines for Internship and Placement Applicants
Internships are encouraged within all conservation sections, including science. The preferred period is three to six months. There are two starting dates, one in January, the first Monday after the main Christmas holiday and the second in September/October, to coincide with the first day of the RCA/V&A Conservation Autumn Term. Applications should be received at least six months before the intended starting date of the internship as some studios may be booked up to two years in advance.
Conservation interns from left to right: G.Car, Textile; M.Nief, Paper; A.Schroeder, Painting. Photography by Val Blyth (click image for larger version)
Applications for Internship should be made on the Internship/Placement Application Form.
Placements are arranged by Heads of Sections to allow individuals to work on a specific project for a period of three to six weeks. Applications may be made throughout the year and should be made directly to the relevant Head of Section as far in advance as possible. This should include a full CV with references and a recent portfolio of work, together with an indication of preferred dates. An informal studio visit and meeting will be arranged by the relevant Head of Section.
Enquiries and Application Form
All preliminary enquiries should be made to:
Interns Administrator, Conservation Department
Victoria & Albert Museum, London SW7 2RL
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7942 2131, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7942 2092