The end of my first term here has come and gone, and I’ve barely written here about what it is I’m actually doing.
So! Conservation. Being back in school has been strange, especially since my first master’s degree was such a joke and required almost no work at all. The course here requires a fair bit of self-guidance. We’re told to read, but not what to read, so it’s in some ways a choose your own adventure course. But I feel like I’ve learned a lot so far! Towards the beginning of the term, we all picked a few items out of a big collection the school has hanging around. We didn’t quite realize it at that point, but I guess the items we picked up then will be with us for a while yet. Anytime we learn a new treatment, technique, etc., we try it out on these items. We’ve worked with various other scraps of text blocks too, things we’re completely free to mess up and destroy. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve all got pieces from an activist’s archive. They wanted some stuff worked on, so we’re helping out with that. A little nerve-wracking to work with actual things, but we can take a long time to do it, and some of the stuff might not require a whole lot of scary work.
We’ve mostly learned about cleaning, humidifying, and washing so far. We’ve also done a lot of examination/identification/documentation. Instead of going into any kind of detail that will make no sense, here are some pictures of things!
First up, a bit of examination type things and some mechanical surface cleaning…
Then we moved on to humidification and washing…
And here is a bit of a print I was working on. It had a gross backing on it, and after a bit of washing, the adhesive loosened enough for me to get it off. But then, because adhesive had been entirely covering the back (the verso) of the print, there was still all kinds of gross residue. So I had to spend some time scraping away at that, and when that didn’t completely work, I had to apply a poultice to the adhesive areas, which sort of activated the adhesive again and allowed me to scrape it off a bit more. A little gross looking, and sort of tedious, but pretty satisfying once it was done.
We have class Monday-Wednesday, and towards the end of the term, we were given work placements. Along with five others (spread over two days), I go over to University College London one day a week to work in their conservation space. We do pretty much whatever they need us to do. Surface cleaning, small repairs, making some boxes, whatever they have. It’s been really nice going there and just being sort of thrown in the mix, working on various things. If it’s something we haven’t covered in class, someone will give us a quick lesson on what we need to do and then let us loose. Which can be a little bit scary! These are real things we’re working on! Not just some random objects from a dusty old collection. We were allowed to take pictures of things for our technical logs for class, but we can’t go around showing the fancy things we’re working on over the internet. But I made this box, and I see no reason why I can’t show you that.
There is also science, which is sad for me, but it’s only once a week so it’s not terrible. I was doing well for a little while! I understood things. Then somewhere things took a turn and I got lost and I really need to spend some time over the break doing a bit of revision, as they say here. We also have preservation management classes, which is a bit of a snooze at times, but still important. Learning about regulations and such. But part of that class is going on visits to museums and archives, which has been great. We’ve been to three so far, and it’s fun to see different conservation labs and learn about how different institutions deal with problems. Also, London Metropolitan Archive has a fancy box making machine like they do at LOC, and the guy there gave us nifty souvenir boxes to keep. That may not sound exciting, but IT IS.
So, that’s school. Otherwise, I’ve been working at the fancy new JCC in north London. It’s ok. I don’t work very much, just usher for cinema and arts events whenever they have shifts open. It’s pretty disorganized? Sometimes it’s fun, but sometimes the events are boring, and other times they mess things up and people (customers) yell at you. It’d be nice to find some other place to work? That is maybe more regular? The other ushers I generally work with are nice, though! And the pay is pretty good for what it is. Not much to tell you on that front, really. It’s work. I dunno, still looking around.
I spent today at the library trying to wrap my mind around some science and figure out what I’m going to write about for an essay we have due in January. Was mildly successful on both points, but I’ve still got a ways to go. I’ve been spending time doing some touristy things, and my sister gets in on Sunday for a week and a bit of fun. Back to class before you know it! Oh noooo….