charter cropped.jpg

Conservators collaborate

with each other and other disciplines

Conservation at its heart is a multi-disciplinary profession. Conservators work with a wide variety of materials and objects, each with specific treatment and environmental needs. The complexity of structure and vast historical background of objects often leads to a collaboration with other professionals, possessing different skillsets and specialised backgrounds. To formulate informed decisions about cleaning, repair and preservation methods, conservators work closely with a vast spectrum of experts, from scientists and curators, to artisans and academics. Conservation is strongly influenced by science, and a growing number of conservators use technology and equipment from other industries when examining and treating objects; however, traditional craft skills are also highly valued in conservation, and the knowledge of artists and craftspeople is frequently sought when developing treatments for objects. Most of all, conservators collaborate with each other, sharing skills and knowledge to develop ever-better conservation treatments; and some complex objects require collaboration between conservators specialising in different skills to treat successfully.

Oil painting

UL 20/007

Oil paints, hardboard

The surface of this painting was dirty, obscuring the image. The student had not conserved a painting before, so a paintings conservator was consulted to give a basic understanding of the removal of dirt and grease, consolidation and infilling. This collaboration taught the student to carry out simple wet cleaning treatments without causing removal of original paint. Parts of the painting were fragile, so this guidance was vital for a successful treatment. Cleaning the painting revealed its true colours, and the collaboration was beneficial for the student too: it allowed them to understand new aspects of oil paintings and how to approach conserving paintings in the future. Emily Makinson.

Still life oil painting depicting bread, wine and an apple.
Medieval charter written on parchment

Royal Charter

UL 18/010

Parchment, ink, wax, silk

The University’s Conservation Department is working in partnership with the City of Lincoln to research the City’s collection of Royal Charters. The Charters span nearly 400 years of history, and include important documents that reflect the city’s importance during the Medieval period. The primary objective of the ongoing collaboration between the City and the University is to ensure the Charters’ sustainability as manuscripts of national historical importance and a reminder of the city’s heritage; a visitor attraction and an academic resource. The collaboration enables conservation work to be conducted locally, providing exciting opportunities for the university’s students; with further research from students in the departments of law and history anticipated. Louise Wood.

Anglo-Saxon annular brooch

UL 18/093.19

Copper alloy, mineralised iron

This flat annular brooch was excavated from an Anglo-Saxon burial site in 2018. These brooches were used, primarily by Anglo-Saxon women to secure items of clothing, and were produced between 470 – 570 AD. From the beginning, this treatment was informed by the needs of the archaeologists responsible for interpreting these objects. A visit from Lincolnshire’s Finds Liaison Officer provided an archaeologist’s perspective on the desired treatment outcome; it was important that characteristics such as patina, design elements, and evidence of use, such as worn areas or textile fibres, should be revealed, documented, and preserved. As a result, a much more restrained and careful approach to cleaning this object was taken, to ensure that no important archaeological information was lost or destroyed. Isabel Okaya.

Botanical specimen of maple

Cased botanical specimen (Maple)

UL 19/191.5

Wood, glass, paper, plant material

This decorative maple specimen was produced by Flatters and Garnett Ltd. in the early 1900s as part of their “British Forest Trees” set. Several specimens from this set were brought to the University by the Rotherham Museum, and given to different students for treatment. The cased specimens needed cleaning and stabilisation. When multiple conservators are working on similar objects at the same time, it helps to develop a treatment which is consistent and easily replicated. Discussing treatment ideas with students working on other specimens made it possible to develop individual conservation treatments which were nevertheless consistent, utilising similar materials and techniques. Isabel Okaya.

Portrait frame

UL 18/046

Wood, gesso, composition, gold

This frame was used to house a large portrait painting and required two people just to move it. The frame had suffered serious deterioration: around half the decorative components had been lost and those that remained were extremely fragile, it was covered in dirt and was missing areas of gilding and gesso. Because of the large amount of work required to restore it to a presentable appearance, a team

of four students carried out treatment on the frame, with the aim of cleaning it and replacing lost components. The work had to be collaborative to achieve the same level of treatment on all corners. Samuel Revell, Roksana Drobinoga.

Geology sample display case

UL 20/008

Wood, glass, minerals, felt, paper

Correct identification of materials and construction, and understanding the values of an object, is essential if a suitable conservation treatment is to be applied. The geology collection was acquired without associated documentation about the production date or sample acquisition. During the initial stage of documentation, publications written by specialists in geology and geological conservation were consulted. The aim was to stimulate inter-disciplinary colIaborations, which provide knowledge and determine informed treatment decisions. Using sources from other specialisms made it possible to identify the different mineralogical specimens, and was essential to developing a treatment that did not damage their fragile crystal structures. Roksana Drobinoga.

Case with geological specimens
'Lalique' glass bowl, with clear and blue glass.

Lalique bowl

UL 19/087


During treatment on this Lalique bowl, portable X-Ray fluorescence (pXRF) was carried out on the glass in order to determine the elemental composition and see if this suggested anything about its provenance. A conservation PhD student with experience carrying out pXRF analysis demonstrated how to safely operate the pXRF analyser and helped interpret the results. As a result of this collaboration it was discovered that the glass contained lead. Lead is no longer used in glass production, as it is known to be toxic. Its presence in the bowl suggested that this was not a modern object and supported the provenance of the bowl suggested by the ‘Lalique’ manufacturer’s mark. Eleanor Gaines-Burril.

Marble bust

UL 20/001


During the documentation stage of this project, consultations were held with an experienced stone sculptor to learn more about the style and techniques used to create the bust. A new method of marble sculpture repair was proposed which involved the use of equipment and machinery used in the manufacturing industry, and digital modelling software used in videogame design. In order to develop the treatment, the student consulted with experts in 3D technologies. This multidisciplinary approach made it possible to create a virtual model and reconstruction of the sculpture, strengthened the student’s understanding of the object’s condition, and helped develop strategies for its conservation. Hamish Innes.

A headless marble bust.
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Conservators consider