2018 commemorates the 50th anniversary of Chester Beatty’s death and to mark the occasion a programme of events are being held across the year, including a day-long conservation symposium, celebrating the conservation internships at the Chester Beatty.
Having been an intern at the Chester Beatty from 2014-2015, I know how valuable the internship programme can be for emerging conservators. I was delighted that I was able to attend the symposium, which included a tour of the studio. Here we had the chance to meet all of the past interns that were able to attend, the current intern Alice Derham, as well as Kristine Rose-Beers and Julia Poirier to see the projects they have been working on.
The symposium began with a warm welcome from Jessica Baldwin, Head of Collections and Conservation. Jessica opened the Conservation Department at the Chester Beatty in 2003, and hosted the first conservation internship in 2005. By 2006, the programme was co-funded by the Heritage Council. This short blog will run through the talks presented during the symposium on Friday 8th June 2018.
Louise O’Connor, now Conservator at the National Library of Ireland (NLI) became the first intern at the Chester Beatty in 2005. Her talk ‘Conservation internships: Nurturing an acorn’ guided us through the importance of having internships available to train students and recent graduates to ensure not only their development, but to make certain that the skills needed for the preservation of our collections, continues to be developed. Louise took us back through her career, and it is clear that she has taken from her past experiences to ensure that she is able to provide emerging professionals with a varied and valuable experience. Louise is now one of the hosts for the Heritage Council internship held at the NLI.
The global-scale of conservation and the many different experiences one can undertake was wonderfully described by Elisabeth Randell, who is currently a conservator at the British Library. Her talk ‘Conservation in motion’ explained how gaining experience in several different heritage institutions in Canada, Ireland and the UK, helped her to discover the pathway she wanted to take, which was ultimately in paper conservation. Being exposed to different collections and methodologies in different countries has given Elisabeth a varied experienced.
After lunch in the sunshine, Kristine introduced the afternoon session. The first speaker was Rachael Smith, Drawings Conservator at Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle. She discussed a recent intensive project where she conserved a large collection of Indian paintings and manuscripts on paper. Having worked with similar collections at the Chester Beatty, Rachael detailed the conservation treatments and mounting systems used for this project. It was interesting for Rachael to share her experience during her time at the Chester Beatty, which clearly helped to develop her understanding of Indian collections. Her work at Royal Collection Trust can be seen in the Splendours of the Subcontinent: Four Centuries of South Asian Paintings and Manuscripts exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. The project has also expanded to gallery talks, a news feature on BBC London and a short film about the work undertaken, which can be seen here.
In November 2014, Bevan O’Daly undertook a placement at the Chester Beatty to carry out condition assessments and assist with gallery rotations of textile collections with Karen Horton (Textile Conservator). Bevan’s motivation, hard work and enthusiasm for the textile conservation field has led her to her current post as Textile Conservator at the National Trust, after completing a Master’s in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow in 2017. Her talk ‘How long is a piece of string’ was given by the only non-paper conservator of the day where she discussed the many non-textile materials she has encountered during her time in the field alongside the variety of objects she has treated in the past year.
The last talk of the day was given by Fiona McLees, Paper Conservator at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, who was an intern at the Chester Beatty from 2011-2012. Fiona’s talk ‘Beyond paper: Mummy bandages & sticks of rock’ highlighted the range of work and the variety of objects that can be included in a paper conservator’s remit. From acting as a courier to international institutions to install works of art for display to running a workshop for children about conservation, details the range of responsibilities for the professional.
The day of lectures was incredibly insightful; having worked with Bevan during my time at the Chester Beatty, and Rachael in my current post at Royal Collection Trust, it was pleasing to see the accomplishments of my former and current colleagues. I was delighted to meet the previous interns I had not yet met and to discover more about their experiences and achievements. Similarly, it was a pleasure to catch up with my former colleagues and friends from both the Chester Beatty and other institutions in Dublin.
I would like to say a special thanks to Jessica for the enormous effort she has put into establishing this internship program. Jessica’s own experiences have enabled her to ensure that interns working at the Chester Beatty have a good team of mentors around them and a healthy and happy life living in Dublin.
I would also like to extend my thanks to Kristine, Julia, Alice and all of the other CB staff who helped to organise such a fantastic day.
Puneeta Sharma, Assistant Drawings Conservator (Prints and Drawings), Royal Collection Trust
Current Chester Beatty intern in Conservation, Alice Derham, will be giving a lunchtime lecture as part of Heritage Week on Wednesday 22nd August at 1:00pm, Intricate Indian Miniatures through the Eyes of a Conservator. Please join us if you can!