Growing up in Singapore, a country recognised for being a cultural melting pot, has made me fascinated with the field of cultural heritage. It was an ordinary site-visit to my local Heritage Conservation Centre that inspired me to pursue conservation. During the degree, I was exposed to working with a variety of metal, wood, ceramic and gilded objects. I also completed two placements at Studio Västsvensk Konservering (SVK) Sweden, and Centre for Research Collections (CRC), University of Edinburgh. It was an incredible opportunity to get a glimpse of working in the professional field, and to be mentored by senior paper conservators who have inspired me to choose a specialisation in paper conservation. Upon graduation, I will be pursuing a MA in Conservation of Fine Art (Paper) at Northumbria University. In the future, I hope to fully utilise my skills and knowledge to do my part in preserving my country’s’ cultural treasures and values.
UL No. 16/084
This is a hand-painted earthenware wall plate. It was likely that the object suffered from a physical impact as a part of the rim was broken off and there were multiple areas that had been chipped off.
The plate was cleaned and a replacement piece was added to the missing area. Because earthenwares are more likely to absorb moisture than the other types of ceramic bodies, cleaning was mostly done with steam. To create the replacement piece, the technique of moulding and casting was adopted. This method is appropriate as the shape of the dish and decorations around the rim are symmetrical. This enables the missing area to be filled by referring to the opposite side of the dish. Ethical considerations were made to ensure that the replacement piece was not visually obtrusive but remains detectable up close. Since the underside of the dish would be hidden from view, small gaps in the joint were not filled. The joint line is also identifiable up close. Since they do not pose any risk to the object nor affect the aesthetic value, minor chips along the rim of the dish were kept as it is. By doing so, it respects the object’s history.
Earthenware dish, decorated circa 18th century
UL No. 18/082
A private client brought in this print by William Lionel Wyllie, as a personal object. William Lionel Wyllie is a prolific marine artist and his etchings were recognised as one of his finest works. It was in its original frame with the frame maker’s company label present on the backboard. It seemed to have been stored in an inappropriate environment for a long period of time, which resulted in mould growth, accumulation of dirt and the frame coming apart.
Cleaning was a priority to address the issue of mould. All components (frame, mount boards and print) were thoroughly cleaned using a vacuum fitted with a special filter that removes 99.95% of particles from the air. The print was re-mounted on to pH neutral boards. Adhesive-free mounting was done to prevent the risk of any future damages that could occur. The print was re-framed in its original frame. To retain the original materials as much as possible, the original mounts were also included in the frame. A plastic sheet was placed in between the original and new mount. This separation acts as a barrier, protecting the print. Framing was completed with an unconventional approach of replacing the backboard with a clear plastic sheet. This is so that the original mount, which contains the artwork title and name of the artist, is exposed and remains with the print.
Drypoint Etching ‘Yacht Racing on Loch Long’ circa 1889
This map depicting Instön, an island in Sweden, is a personal possession of a private client. The treatment of this map was conducted during my placement at Studio Västsvensk Konservering (SVK). When the object was brought in, it was tightly rolled up in a tube. The map seemed to have been originally folded, resulting in the paper to become weak, causing it to tear along the fold lines over time. The map was then reconstructed with clear tape which had turned yellow with age, leaving stains on the paper.
Weights were placed along the border to flatten it out as much as possible before conducting any treatments. The treatment began with removing the old tapes followed by dry and wet cleaning, lining onto an appropriate conservation grade paper and flattening. Although the option of bleaching was discussed as a means of lightening the stains caused by the tapes, it was deemed undesirable. While it would undeniably improve the aesthetic qualities of the object, it could potentially remove the print. There are also annotations on the map written in pencil, which could be removed. The treatment is complete and the object has been returned to the owner.
Photo credit: Studio Västsvensk Konservering, 2019
Map of Instön circa 1855