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Art History Professional Pathway Seminar

Rebecca Stewart | January 15, 2020

Art History Faculty’s First Professional Pathway Seminar – November 2019

On 19 November, the Art History Faculty’s first professional pathway seminar on the topic of Conservation took place at NCH. As part of this series of events, Lisa Nash, a senior conservator at the Royal Institute of British Architects gave a talk about careers in conservation.

Lisa, who is a specialist in the conservation of drawings on paper and architecture models, gave the students an insight into what her job looks like, including an overview of the areas that her work comprises. As an introduction, she defined the aims of conservation – slowing down the inevitable/intrinsic deterioration of organic and inorganic objects.

As a conservator, Lisa is confronted with objects that have suffered because of natural causes, for example, such as the changing of the colour of inks which were originally black but turned brown over time. This change happens due to oxidation. Other factors that might affect the appearance of objects are natural disasters such as flooding or fire. Interestingly, Lisa confirmed that from a conservator’s point of view fire is less harmful in its long-term effects than water. The reason for that is that fire either completely destroys or darkens objects, while water harm is longer lasting. Substantial damage can also be induced by animals, such as silverfish, who are attracted by the glues in the paper of books and therefore eat holes in them. However, human involvement can also, in many cases, cause damage to objects, through poor modes of transportation for example.

Lastly, Lisa told us about the diversity that the work of conservation involves. Conservators are involved with exhibitions and thereby work closely with curators, with the intention of protecting the objects. In this regard, they often have to find careful compromises between their objectives and the ideas of curators. Conservators are also consulted when objects are transported or stored.

Summing up, the talk gave us an insight into the diverse roles that a conservator has, enabling students a new future prospect of careers in the artworld.

Isabella Schwarzer