Robert soho
17 Aug 2015

Birmingham Museums Conservation Volunteers Shortlisted for Award

In July it was announced that the Conservation Volunteer team has been shortlisted for the prestigious Conservation in the Community Award from the Institute for Conservation (ICON).

I was very happy to hear the news because I co-ordinated the application for this award by working with the other conservators at Birmingham Museums, and I was particularly pleased for all our dedicated volunteers. The prize of £5000 would be a boost to allow us to provide more training opportunities for our volunteers.

I have been supervising the Conservation Club volunteers doing the deep clean of historic houses as described in my previous blog, but this is only one of 4 current conservation projects involving volunteers at Birmingham Museums.

Volunteer conservator cleaning the ormolu sidereal clock
Robert Hemphill, Conservation Club volunteer at Soho House. 

The Aston Textile project is tackling the cleaning and remounting of a 17th Century Crewel work bed hanging that will be hung on a four-poster bed at Aston Hall once it has been washed and re stitched onto a new linen support. This painstaking work, carried out in weekly sessions by a dedicated team of volunteers will take 18 months to complete, and is supervised by Conservation Team leader Jane Thompson Webb.

The Aston textile project cleaning the 17th Century bed hanging
Aston Hall textile cleaning team Sheila Williams, Catherine Laybourn, Joan Cooper, Sheila Stones and Heather Jones. 

Birmingham Museums Volunteer of the Year 2014 David Foster has been quietly working away on inputting conservation records onto the museum‘s database creating 11,000 records over 13 years.

Volunteer David Foster being presented with his Volunteer of the Year award data-rel=
Deborah Cane, Jane Thompson Webb, David Foster and Simon Cane at the presentation of Volunteer of the Year in 2014. 

The Civic Silver project has brought together 9 volunteers who have been trained in methods of silver cleaning by Birmingham Museum Conservators Ciaran Lavelle and Lizzy Miller. The Civic Silver Collection contains many beautiful pieces such as the Freedom of the City casket seen below. The project also makes use of corrosion intercept technology to prevent tarnishing in the future.

Volunteers and conservators working on the Civic Silver project
Sue McGlen, Lizzie Miller, Ayesha Hussain and Ciaran Lavelle. 

Having seen all these exciting volunteer projects unfolding it was the icing on the cake to be short listed for this award. I travelled to London to meet the judging panel and it was a real bonus to be accompanied by two of our volunteers, Ayesha Hussain and Michelle Gayle, to help make our case. Ayesha is starting out on a career in the Heritage Sector after graduating with a degree in English from Birmingham City University. She was able to explain to the judges how valuable the experience is to her in boosting her confidence. Michelle has been a volunteer at Birmingham Museums for 6 years and in that time she has learnt a great deal about conservation. She impressed the judges when they found out that she has gone on to work for the National Trust and is now a curator at Avoncroft Museum in Bromsgrove. She also volunteers at the Coffin Works in Birmingham and will be passing on the skills and knowledge she has built up with Birmingham Museums.

Volunteer conservator Michelle with conservator Derek
Michelle Gayle and myself. 

So having got the judging out of the way we now have our fingers crossed for the Awards Ceremony when the winners are announced in October. Wish us luck!