Occasionally, I manage to get out of the lab–or, at the very least, I bring the experience of the lab to other people. As part of my conservation training, I have interacted with the public to educate them about what conservators do, and how we experience our material history.
Public Education at the Penn Museum
While undertaking a placement at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, I was fortunate enough to work in the Artifact Lab, a public conservation lab where they work on Egyptian materials. As Penn Museum conservators and I treated mummies, we spoke to visitors about what we were doing, and why. Not only was this a good opportunity to answer questions about the objects, it also allowed us to showcase what typically happens behind the scenes.
The conservation team at the Penn Museum also hosted a “Conservator for a Day” workshop for the museum’s summer camp students. We led them through several conservation-related activities, including excavation, microscopy and surface cleaning. The students learned about how to handle and treat artifacts, and left with conservation certificates and the knowledge of how to make cotton swabs.
In December of 2013, two of my colleagues from the Cardiff University Conservation program and I travelled to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to present papers at the ICON 2013 Winter Conference: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I spoke about my work with the slippers from Cyfarthfa Castle and discussed whether the “redeemability” of an object is inherent.
One of the easiest ways to reach the public (you don’t even have to leave the lab!) is through the internet. I have written entries for both the Artifact Lab blog and Conservation@Cardiff, our official Conservation program blog.