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RCA/V&A Postgraduate Conservation Programme

Alison Richmond
Deputy Head, RCA/V&A Conservation

There is much good news to report from the academic year 2005/2006.

We have two new graduates from the MA programme, Naomi Luxford, who gained an MA in Conservation Science in the Care of Historic Collections (with English Heritage), and Barbara Schertel, who now has an MA in Furniture Conservation (with the V&A).  Barbara's final year research project considered polyurethane-coated textiles found on furniture from the 1960s and 1970s. Naomi researched into the effective lifetime of cellulose nitrate lacquer to prevent silver tarnish.

We have come through a successful year of our first in-post MA. Lucy McLean, who is a director of the conservation firm, Antique Bronze Limited, is undertaking a part-time studentship in the Conservation of Post-Nineteenth Century Bronze. The idea is that in-post conservators can join our Programme and study within their own employment position on a full-time or part-time basis. This approach gives conservation professionals access to an academic framework, developing skills and knowledge while advancing their practice leading to the degree of MA(RCA). Lucy spends approximately one day a week attending lectures and seminars, and has occasional tutorials on her practical work with her specialist advisors.

This year's student symposium was a great success with 90 delegates attending.  In addition to the research project titles given above, talks ranged through a wide spectrum of topics: localised dying with Lanaset dyes, patina on contemporary plastic jewellery, conserving state beds, perceptions of damage on Holocaust victims' shoes, conservation of a wasps' nest, sacred cultural heritage, outdoor bronze sculpture, mount-making, open display and the public, composition of albumen photographs and black pigments in Hilliard's miniatures.  The prize for the best presentation according to the students themselves was given to Richard Mulholland for his talk on David Smith's Spray Paintings.

This October we will be welcoming two new MA students and two MPhil. We have introduced a new MA studentship for 2006/2007 in the Conservation and Mounting of Costume. This will be jointly hosted by Historic Royal Palaces and the V&A. The emphasis of this studentship will be on preventive conservation of dress and accessories. It will focus on the construction, conservation and safe mounting of many different types of costume involving a wide variety of textiles and textile related materials.  You can find out more about the new students of 2006/2007 below.

New Students

Jennifer Barsby

Jennifer Barsby

Jennifer Barsby, MA Textile Conservation (click image for larger version)

I graduated from the Embroidery degree at Manchester metropolitan university in 2005. Whist in my final year I undertook a short placement at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester and was subsequently employed as a textile technician assisting in the redisplay of the permanent  textile exhibition after graduating. This gave me an insight into the world of conservation and the installation of works. I was then asked to work on a temporary exhibition called Clothing Culture in late Roman Egypt featuring Coptic textiles. I have since been involved in the ongoing storage renovations.

I feel that the conservation profession brings together my love of textiles and my appreciation of historic objects. I hope that this course will allow me to pursue these interests academically while continuing to work creatively. It will provide the opportunity to build on my existing skills, work on a wide range of textile objects and hopefully specialise within the discipline. I also look forward to the opportunity to travel aboard and live and study in London. I plan to begin my career in textile conservation with an internship leading to work in either a museum or private studio.

Sam Gatley

Sam Gatley

Sam Gatley, MA Conservation and Mounting of Textiles (click image for larger version)

I have been working in museums as a mount maker since 1998, during which time I have acquired a variety of mount making skills, including pattern cutting, metal and Perspex work.

Working in different institutions such as the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, The Horniman and the V&A, I have had the opportunity to work closely with many extremely supportive conservators and technicians. In 2002 I enrolled at the Wimbledon School of Art on the BA (Hons) in Costume Interpretation, in order to enhance my pattern cutting skills and to gain practical knowledge of historical dress, an area of museum collections which has always interested me.

In the time that I will be studying with the RCA/V&A I hope to develop established modes of textile mounting and gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding conservation science.