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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Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play & Politics

22 05 2014

Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play & Politics

A new exhibition opened to the public today at the Manchester Museum charting the history of Whitworth Park, and based on work carried out over the last couple of years through the Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project, funded in part by a Heritage Lottery Fund Your Heritage grant. A huge number of people have been involved with the project, including staff and students of the University of Manchester, led by the Department of Archaeology, as well as the Friends of Whitworth Park, staff from the Museum, as well as the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Ahmed Iqbal Race Relations Resource Centre.

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Lots of local school students joined in the archaeological dig that uncovered a whole host of finds – sadly lost toys, including a lead soldier, and marbles, fragments of pottery and numerous glass ‘pop’ bottles, all of which bring together a picture of how the park was used over the decades.

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The exhibition runs until 5 October, and the Museum is running a series of events over the summer, including ‘Conservation on Show’ (23 July 12-2pm) – which I’m plugging here, as its my fabulous team at the Museum who assisted the archaeologists and students with the conservation of artefacts, and our technicians who, as ever, have built a great exhibition set!





Opening up the Whitworth’s 19th century grand staircases

17 10 2013

Opening up the Whitworth's 19th century grand staircases

Many visitors to the Whitworth Art Gallery may be unaware of the magnificent 19th century grand staircases hidden at either end of our Textile Gallery; some people may have peeked through the rather dismal 1970s grey doors that lead to back-of-house areas; a few enterprising individuals will have made it up the stairs, accompanied by Gallery staff and visited the Whitworth Study Rooms.

An exciting element of the refurbishment part of our building project is that both staircases will be opened up to the public, animating the Oxford Road side of the building and providing impressive routes to a large function room and lecture theatre ion the first floor (there will be more detail about this space in a future blog post). Taking a route down the stairs on the south side will lead visitors to much improved cloakroom facilities, including toilets, lockers, a disabled toilet, buggy park and family room. And if the stairs are a problem, then for the first time, a lift will operate between lower ground, ground and first floors at this end of the building.

Hanging over the stairwells, were four lovely art nouveau light fittings – sadly currently a bit dusty and paint splattered. However, these have recently been taken down so that they are safe during the forthcoming construction work in this area, which will include the demolition of some walls and the installation of the lift shaft and lift, and are now with conservation colleagues down at the Manchester Museum, where they will be cleaned and returned to their former glory. Some of the original glass shades are missing, so we are on the search for replacements – if none can be found we might have to commission some replicas to be made – watch this space for the unfolding story.

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