Conservation at the Hunterian

Roman amphora pre-conservationCare and conservation are vital to the collections. Aileen Nisbet from the Conservation Department explains:

The mission of the Hunterian is “to maintain and develop the Hunterian Collections of the University of Glasgow as an outstanding resource for research, lifelong learning, and enjoyment, accessible to all”. To assist in the fulfillment of that mission, the Conservation Department, by means of a comprehensive preventative and remedial conservation programme, and working alongside colleagues at the Hunterian, the University of Glasgow, and outside conservation agencies, seeks to conserve the Collections for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Conservation Department is part of the Collections Management Department and is led by a Conservation Manager and a Frame Technician. The Conservation Department oversees the physical protection of the collections through appropriate environmental monitoring, pest management, and housekeeping programmes and undertakes the provision of appropriate staff training to promote best practice in the handling and care of objects. The Conservation Department also carries out conservation assessments prior to acquisition, loan and display and works to clean, repair and stabilize objects in the collection - see the links for examples of student and other conservation projects. All conservation measures undertaken are documented.

Example of a recent art historical conservation project:
A white plaster bust, Untitled, by the artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005)
This had developed a serious crack as well as a number of smaller cracks and chips. Remedial conservation was carried out by conservator Julie Masson-Maclean. The cracks were consolidated, filled and retouched and a new support was made to improve long term storage.

Example of a current archaeology conservation project:
A Roman Amphora with two handles, a pointed bottom, inner and outer surfaces encrusted with oyster shells. This had been broken into 6 fragments including rim, neck and handles and had been previously restored (possibly 1950’s?) A wooden pole with a flat base (to replace the original pointed foot) had been mounted inside the amphora and secured around the base with plaster filling. Over the years the adhesive had aged and yellowed, and a number of fragments had become detached, the plaster around the base had cracked and discoloured, and the wooden pole had become loose. It was decided that the wooden pole, although not original, should be kept as it reflects the history of the object’s previous conservation and display. The current treatment involves surface cleaning the amphora, removing the old adhesive, re-adhering the detached fragments, and removing and replacing the old plaster filling around the base.