New HLF / Icon Conservation Intern Natasha Hall

Hello everybody, my name is Natasha Hall and I am going to be taking you with me on my travels as the new Institute of Conservation (Icon), Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Fine Metals Conservation Intern stationed at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for the next year.

Natasha Hall documenting buttons

Documentation of buttons.

Fine metals are something that most persons on this earth are drawn to. For millennia metalwork has been a solid backbone to human growth and adaptation, allowing our species to create items for various purposes; from heirlooms, to weapons; for vanity or religion. The longevity and stability of this material has in itself enabled us to have the gift of looking back through the ashes of empires, whether it is hundreds or thousands of years. The conservation of these items is the plinth on which future generations’ knowledge on human history stands. I am a truly an honoured individual to have the opportunity to be working in this environment for the next 12 months.

Before I go on I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Icon and HLF for funding my placement here at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and a HUGE thank you to my mentor Pieta Greaves ACR, Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Coordinator for her continued support. Also Julie Taylor my Job Center advisor who told me about this internship, helped me to secure the placement and has always shown credence in me and my abilities.

This Fine Metals internship will allow me to simultaneously meet people and experience first hand what a career within conservation would be like. As a naturally curious soul I have to admit to being quite wide-ranging with my points of interest. Already 2 weeks in and I am learning to channel my focus into one area, learning that concentrating on one area or item does not exempt all avenues of interest. Rather, like a beehive looks from the outside, though whole on the surface within it, a honey comb of compartments all separate – yet together. This is how I see the complex world of conservation. Inside this one point of interest lays neat yet complex areas of perception which when delved into can keep you spellbound with history, science and art alike for hours on end.

On my first day as Intern, the Conservation team was invited to Portsmouth to visit the legendary and ill-fated Mary Rose. Following a two and a half hour road trip with Pieta, object conservator Alex Cantrill and previous Icon HLF, intern Rose Wachsmuth we arrived at the ship, this was a great day and allowed me to be reacquainted with the staff I will be spending my time with for the next year on an informal but professional level.

The conservation team passing the HMS Victory replica

The conservation team heading towards Mary Rose, passing the HMS Victory replica.

Drying of the Mary Rose timbers

Drying of the Mary Rose timbers.

As the new Intern, part of my body of work will be to continue on Rose Wachsmuth’s work and recommendations (read more about Rose’s internship) in the Silver stores located at the Museums Collections Centre. There is a mystery of how and why some of the objects in the silver stores are tarnishing when others are fine. I shall be testing various silver objects in various ways to see if we can get to the bottom of the mystery and help to preserve objects in the silver stores for longer. I will also have the chance to clean some of the objects of the tarnish layers.

To start building on my knowledge and experience my first project is looking at a group of buttons: 105 buttons of mainly navy descent, spanning from the 18th to the 19th century. These buttons are to be analysed, treated and need to have both pre and post conservation reports, XRF and X-Ray readings. The buttons project will run alongside other projects and will be completed by Christmas for mounting and displaying shortly after.

Some buttons from my first project.

Some buttons from my first project.

I will also work closely in the future on two projects with Applied Art curator Martin Ellis as he is completing a small gallery refit, my part of this will include conserving some fine metal jewellery that has been made in Birmingham’s Jewellery quarter and to help install and condition check some especially fine Vesta Cases.

I shall be updating you with more information and images from this, and all of my projects project during my time here at Birmingham I will be sharing more in-depth information about my various projects, samples of condition reports, information on training gained and conferences I attend.

Natasha Hall,
Icon HLF Fine Metals Intern

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