Bodleian Library, Gideon tapestries, Knole, Levy Intern, Studio life, Survey, Tapestry

My Textile Conservation Internship so far…

Since my first blog post back in September last year I have been very busy with all that being the current Levy Textile Conservation Studio intern entails. It seems very odd that I’m nearing the end of my first year, it’s gone so fast, but then they do say time flies when you’re having fun!

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my main internship goals was to gain a better understanding of tapestry conservation. My internship began by completing a tapestry sampler which took me through all of the techniques I would encounter when conserving the real thing.

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Working on a tapestry sampler

When I felt confident enough to tackle a real life tapestry I was enlisted to help the team with the latter stages of the 6th Gideon tapestry from Hardwick hall to be worked on by the Studio. To further develop my tapestry conservation skills, since December last year I have been working on a tapestry (c.1590s) depicting Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties based on a map produced by Christopher Saxton in the 1570s, this belongs to the University of Oxford, Bodleian Library collection. For more information on this project, click here. One of the main hurdles to jump when working on a tapestry is the sometimes awkward position you have to work in. The photo below (probably the most unflattering photo ever!) shows me setting up a scrim line on the Gideon tapestry.

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Working on Gideon tapestry

And helping another colleague to attach Velcro® to the top edge of the tapestry, can you see Alice hiding under the frame?

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Preparing Gideon tapestry from re-hang

During my time as intern so far there have been numerous opportunities to leave the comfortable surroundings of the Studio to complete textile surveys and estimates on site, in the beautiful surroundings of Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, Blickling Hall just down the road from us in Norfolk and Polesden Lacey in Surrey. It’s been great to get out and about, and a perk of the work is meeting the lovely house teams within these properties and having the chance to speak to visitors about the work that we do. For more information on textile surveys, including the one at Blickling I had the pleasure to be a part of see Nadine’s recent post here.

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Rolling an embroidered quilt after condition assessment during a survey at Baddesley Clinton

I was also lucky enough to be involved in the major conservation works that are taking place at Knole in Kent when I went with two other members of the studio team back in November to take down the bed in Lady Betty’s room. The photo below shows me vacuuming the bed hangings before they were taken off the bed and packed away. I also assisted with the taking down of the two tapestries in this room (which can also be seen in the photo).

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Surface cleaning Lady Betty’s bed hangings

As the current intern it is my responsibility to take control of certain environmental monitoring tasks at the Studio in order that the historic textiles we are working on are in a safe environment. I have learnt how to download the three studio Hanwell Data Loggers and record their relative humidity and temperature, this is done once a month, and any issues raised. And every three months I also check the 48 studio insect pest traps we have positioned around the Studio, identifying the insects caught, some of which can pose a risk to historic textiles.

One of the highlights of my internship experience so far has been the successful completion of the Chemistry for Conservators course which is four months long and involves conducting and writing up experiments and answering questions which are marked by a personal assessor. Although at times challenging, this distance learning course has enabled me to gain a better understanding of the basic principles of chemistry and how it can be applied to conservation work. I hope to use my new found knowledge on projects over the coming months and years as I progress as a textile conservator.

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My first Chemistry for Conservators experiment to investigate the effects of air, water and pollutants on objects (nails!)

I have thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience so far and have many exciting things in store for the remainder of this year and next. I’m sure you’ll hear from me again during this time, so until then, bye for now.



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