Talking sustainability in San Francisco

30 05 2014

Talking sustainability in San Francisco

This week, the city of San Francisco is hosting the American Institute of Conservation’s 42nd Annual Meeting, and this year with 1,212 delegates, it is the largest conservation conference organised in the US. The theme of the meeting, is ‘Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care’, and during the four days sees over 200 presentations, workshops and roundtable discussions on topics ranging from LED lighting, to the use of lime based grouts for the conservation of historic masonry, and from the dilemmas posed by collecting Digital Video Art, to the Conservation of a 17th century convent in downtown Lima, Peru.

My own paper – part of the opening session on day one, was the perfect place to promote the work of the Whitworth’s collection care team and in particular the sustainable elements of our building project; titled, ‘Being a Gallery in a Park: Balancing Sustainability, Access and Collection Care’, it sat neatly amongst other presentations, including ‘Sustainable Collections Care on a Budget – a New Museum Store for Bolton, UK’ from conservation colleague, Pierrette Squires, ‘Precaution, Proof and Pragmatism: 150 years of expert debate on the Museum Environment’, and one that felt very familiar, ‘ A LEED primer for Conservators, Or, What Should I Do When the Architect Proposes Introducing Daylight in Our New Galleries?’

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At the end of day one, the general consensus was that there had been some excellent presentations – many of a usefully practical nature, and well orchestrated opportunities for networking, including great hospitality at a reception at the de Young Museum situated in the beautiful Golden Gate Park.

Exquisitely clean, calm, light and airy paper conservation lab at the Legion of Honor Art Museum

Exquisitely clean, calm, light and airy paper conservation lab at the Legion of Honor Art Museum

In addition to the conference, I joined a tour earlier in the week to the de Young and Legion of Honor – both part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The tours took us into the galleries, but also behind the scenes to the objects, paintings, textiles and paper conservation laboratories – this was a great opportunity to talk to colleagues and compare notes on conservation materials, equipment and treatments.

I’ve also done a spot of benchmarking for the Manchester Museum in the Naturalist Center at the California Academy of Sciences, and since sustainability is the main theme of the conference, I’ve also been checking out examples of good practice – see the photos below:

The huge green roof on the California Academy of Sciences

The huge green roof on the California Academy of Sciences

60,000 photovoltaic cells in the roof canopy supply energy as well as shielding the building from the sun

60,000 photovoltaic cells in the roof canopy supply energy as well as shielding the building from the sun

Beautifully explained waste management options on the recycling bins!

Beautifully explained waste management options on the recycling bins!

Publicly displayed building energy information at the Exploratorium

Publicly displayed building energy information at the Exploratorium

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Temporary haven for Textile Conservation

11 11 2013

Temporary haven for Textile Conservation

While its wet and windy on site, and seemingly colder on the inside of parts of the Gallery, than outside, our Textile Conservation team are snug in a temporary new home off-site. Two members of staff, and a student intern from Sweden are currently based in a large, light and airy studio, in part of the building which houses conservators from Manchester Art Gallery .

We are very grateful to the staff up at the city who have refurbished what had for some time served as an office space (see photo!), painted walls and relaid new flooring to once again re-establish the room as a functioning conservation studio. Furniture, equipment and materials, were carefully packed up and decanted to this temporary home. The new workplace was set up and staff are now happily working on a selection of Whitworth textiles – with a ‘green’ theme – in this tranquil haven, away from the noise of the construction site.

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The timing has been excellent, as the Whitworth has recently recruited a new Collection Care Technician, and the Manchester Art Gallery have just advertised for a two year trainee-ship in Costume Mounting. Staff at both institutions will undertake training for these new recruits while undertaking practical work on the collections, that will all go towards continuing displays and exhibitions at Manchester Art Gallery and Platt Hall, and for new displays when the Whitworth re-opens to the public in 2014.





Our collections are on the move!

9 09 2013

IMG_0807IMG_0810Our collections are on the move!

We have had collections decant on our various teams’ agenda for the best part of 2 years, and now it is well and truly upon us – how those two years have flown by! Now that we have completed the de-installation of our 2013 summer season of exhibitions and returned all the works to the stores, all our collections are now on the move.

This is a complex process and has involved many staff in the planning. Curators and our Registrar have audited collections and checked current locations, created new numbering systems to ensure nothing goes astray in the move and investigated and pinned down any anomalies that have risen to the surface! Conservators, curators and volunteers (including textile students from MMU) have worked tirelessly to rationalise existing storage in the years and months up to the decant, to ensure the majority of the collection is well prepared to move into our future stores. Conservators and Technicians have planned the logistics of moving 55,000+ objects, most of them down flights of stairs, and carefully marked up our temporary storage location to receive new shelving units.

The first area to move was a textile store in our basement – a bit sad to see the old, almost empty store – but watch this space to see our future stores as they develop.