MA Curating Alumni Jenny Mearns shares her new role in museum marketing

Jenny Mearns is Marketing & Membership Officer at The Salisbury Museum and also a graduate of the Curating Collections and Heritage master’s programme. In this blog post, she reflects on her career so far, and how the MA Curating informed her practice and helped her develop her confidence

I enrolled on the MA Curating, Collections and Heritage course in September 2020, after spending time volunteering with the National Trust as an archive assistant, which ignited my interest in working with collections within the museum and heritage sector. My previous roles were varied (visual merchandising, freelance writing, and running my own small fashion label) yet consistently enabled me to utilise my creative and curious nature!

Fashioning our World Exhibition, The Sailsbury Museum

 

As part of the MA course, in April 2022 I commenced on a three-month work placement at The Salisbury Museum, as project assistant on the Fashioning Our World project. This primarily involved investigating the fashion collection at the museum, seeking evidence of historical sustainable fashion practices (mends, repairs, repurposing, alteration). I found this role enormously rewarding, leading me to continue at the museum upon completion of my placement as volunteer project assistant on Fashioning Our World.

A fragment of a wedding dress showing evidence of historical sustainable fashion practices, discovered on Jenny’s work placement

In November 2023, a full-time role became available at The Salisbury Museum, so of course I jumped at the chance of applying, resulting in me being offered the role of Marketing and Membership Officer.

In this role, I am responsible for developing all marketing assets, from press releases, social media campaigns, liaising with local and national media, to designing, creating, and sending out monthly newsletters. I also look after existing museum members, recruit new members, and process monthly membership renewals.

Fortuitously, Fashioning Our World was the first exhibition I was responsible for marketing, which I found hugely rewarding, securing features in national press including the BBC, The Telegraph and The Times.

Further, alongside my role at the museum, I am committed to exploring my research interests, which amongst other avenues include dichotomies between display and storage within fashion collections in museums, and emotional attachment and clothing.

As such, I currently have some of my research undergoing peer review for publication, and, at the end of the month I will be presenting my paper – Diversifying Stories Through the Curation of the Fashioning Our World Project & Exhibition at The Salisbury Museum at the Beyond the Blockbuster: Exhibiting Fashion Now conference at Museum of London Docklands and London College of Fashion.

My time at the University of Brighton enabled me to engage with critical thinking giving me the opportunity to develop my research interests, with amazing support from my tutors. The course was undoubtedly instrumental in enabling me to move forwards, progressing in my chosen career path within the museum sector. My studies also helped to give me confidence in myself and my abilities, enabling me to grow not only professionally, but also to develop as an individual.

 

MA Curating Alumni Jen Grasso reflects on her career working with archives

Jen Grasso is the Digital Content and Systems Co-Ordinator at the University of Brighton Design Archives and is also a graduate of the Curating Collections and Heritage master’s programme. In this blog post, she reflects on her career so far, and how the MA Curating informed her practice as a researcher and archives practitioner.

With a practice-based background in photography and over 10 years working in administration and recordkeeping, I enrolled in the MA Curating, Collections and Heritage programme in 2019 to see how I could apply my passion for the arts, culture and heritage with my accrued professional experience. I was interested in the theory and practice that founded modern-day collections and how heritage and culture was developed and supported in the UK. During my course I quickly became passionate about working with archives, an area I was lucky to explore during my student placement assessing the archive of photography non-profit organisation Photoworks.

My placement was unfortunately cut short because of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, but I continued to build on my passion for archives. I volunteered at the University of Sussex Special Collections on the National Heritage Lottery Funded-project Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) that digitized sound recordings for the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image catalogue (SAMI).  My main task was to listen to oral histories to flag sensitivity issues and create a summary for the catalogue. I listened to members of the Windrush generation talk about their first impressions of the UK; people’s experiences living through the Blitz; the recipients of the first social housing development in Southhampton, as well as different union members talk about the effects of industrial action. It was here I gained an appreciation for oral histories and how they can be used to document different communities.

Inspired by the UOSH project and the dissertation research I undertook during my master’s degree, which focused on polyvocal narratives and how they are expressed through photography, I began a community archive project documenting the role of the photobooth technician. This was also inspired by the postgraduate course in Archival Studies at the University of Dundee which I enrolled in following my master’s at Brighton. A technician myself since 2015, the Photobooth Technicians Project is an ongoing project that documents the history of the profession since its inception in 1925, in particular, the grassroots community that has arisen throughout the 21st century. It consists of semi-structured oral and written interviews combined with test strips from each technician, which is the main way to assess the status of one’s photobooth. I’m lucky to be able to share this project at the upcoming Photographic History Research Centre’s Annual Conference, The Photographer’s Assistants, at DeMontfort University in June.

In 2022, I was hired as the Digital Content and Systems Co-Ordinator at the University of Brighton Design Archives. My work and research in the Design Archives focuses on the intersection between analogue and digital technologies and how technology can be used to democratize heritage. Part of this research involves an ongoing project working with Dr Karina Rodriguez Echavarria and colleagues in the School of Architecture, Technology and Engineering looking at how Machine Learning and AI can make collections more accessible.

Detail of the results of Santander-funded student placement applying machine learning to the discovery of the Design Archive’s collections. Original image © Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives.

I am also responsible for the digital generation, dissemination, and preservation of records at the Design Archives, and am part of a team that cares for, and makes accessible, records relating to graphic and industrial design from the mid-20th century, a wonderful resource I’m incredibly fortunate to work with. This role allows me to do what I’m passionate about, working directly with collections helping make them accessible, and also brings me back to the University of Brighton, a community that inspired me throughout my master’s degree and one I am now proud to be part of.

Congratulations to the Design History Society Ambassador

Recent graduate Rowan Adamson reflects on her degree in History of Design and Material Culture as a springboard for her role as a new Ambassador for the prestigious Design History Society, the leading organisation that promotes and supports the study of design histories, both in the UK and internationally.

After graduating with my master’s degree in the ‘History of Design and Material Culture’ from the University of Brighton in February 2023, I am pleased to announce my appointment as ‘Ambassador’ for the Design History Society. The DHS is the leading organisation that promotes and supports the study of design histories, both in the UK and internationally. My role will be to promote the DHS through engaging content (primarily through the Blog – including reviews, reports, interviews, thought pieces, visual essays etc) and updating social media channels, as well as organising an event for post-graduate/early career researchers and students to engage with the society in an informal and casual setting.

In addition to my master’s degree, I hold an undergraduate degree in ‘Textile Design’ from Gray’s School of Art (Robert Gordon University) in Aberdeen. Grounded in design and craft principles, my educational background has been instrumental in informing my research with a particular focus on utilising the archive through the lens of creative methods and making practices. Making the transition from a practical studio based undergraduate to an academically challenging and theory led post-graduate forced me to reassess my research methods and led to a deeper understanding of object theory, exhibition design and museum processes. For my master’s dissertation, titled “Memory, Materiality, and the Collection: Exploring the relationship between object and artist within contemporary art and craft,” I delved into creative practices involving found objects and archival material as a tool for inspiration and exploration, interviewing 3 artists/designers and analysing their methods. My research interests span a range of topics, including but not limited to the materiality of the archive, the memory of objects, and Scottish textile design and craft histories.

I loved my master’s degree, and credit the department of History of Art and Design and the Centre for Design History for such an encouraging environment in to learn and question our subject, especially through workshops and seminars along with the excellent staff and my fellow master’s students. With this encouragement I am actively pursuing a career within the arts/museum sector and have recently relocated from Brighton back to Glasgow, where I am continuing my pursuits in the field. The Design History Society allows me the opportunity to stay up to date on the ongoing discourse in Design History, and this engagement serves as a valuable resource as I explore potential avenues for further study and career opportunities.

We are looking for an additional Ambassador to join me; it is an excellent opportunity to be involved with Design History and network with other academics and researchers. Open to anyone with an interest in Design History, please see the ‘Vacancies’ page on the DHS website, or alternatively please email me at radamson15@gmail.com to discuss this further.

https://www.designhistorysociety.org/about/vacancies

https://www.designhistorysociety.org/news/view/welcome-to-our-new-ambassador

 

 

Students’ work on display at Brighton & Hove Museums

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery have opened a new display that features work from MA Curating Collections and Heritage students

“DO NOT TOUCH!!!!” is a display of student posters that all try to challenge the classic signage in museums that ask visitors not to touch the collections. It is on at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery over the next few months.

Caring for Collections and their Users

 

Museum visitors often report feeling out of place or self-conscious in museums, and signage and instructions that dictate how visitors should behave are often part of the alienation and embarrassment that prevents some people from enjoying museums.

Classic signage that MA Curating students hope to avoid

Students on the module ‘Caring for Collections and their Users’ try to take a different approach. As part of their assessment they are challenged to present complex conservation information about caring for objects to museum audiences in an accessible and engaging way. Students can choose to produce a poster that encourages visitors to not to touch, or they can opt to design a set of child-friendly instructions for the safe handling of a mixed range of objects in a schools handling box. Their designs are informed the debates around access, learning, collections research, preventative conservation and audience development that are covered on the module.

Working with Brighton & Hove Museums

 

Each year, students on the MA Curating benefit from conservation workshops run by staff from Brighton & Hove Museums. This year, our long-term relationship with Gaye Conley, Head of Conservation, has led to an invitation to our students to display their posters. Gaye writes

I have wanted to display the students’ work for several years. It’s rewarding to see the outcome of the talks we have undertaken with the students, and it will be fascinating to watch the public engage with the students’ work.

Student posters on display at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Student Success

 

In the space available, Brighton & Hove Museum staff chose three posters produced in recent years. Ellie Bedford designed ‘Museum in a Box!’ to support a school session to help children safely handle objects; Paige Franklin designed ‘Look at Me!’ for an art and design gallery that has fragile objects on open display, and Elliot Thorn produced ‘Vase on a Plinth’ to help people see the consequences of touch, and what might happen if they bring food into the gallery. All of the posters use bold graphics and clear text to encourage visitors to feel welcome in the museum, and informed about how to care for our shared heritage.

Ellie writes,

The poster design was a fun challenge! I enjoyed bringing together all of the curating skills and academic theories that we had learnt, and applying them to a practical task. It’s very rewarding seeing it in print!

‘Museum in a Box!’, Ellie Bedford, 2022

 

‘Look at Me!’, Paige Franklin, 2023

Elliot writes,

Designing the poster was a fun experience. It was a challenge to figure out how to convey meaning without written language. One of my aims was to make the poster accessible to people whose first language wasn’t English, so clear visual storytelling was important. Overall, I’m happy with the end result!

 

‘Vase on a Plinth’, Elliot Thorn, 2022

 

Their university and museum tutors couldn’t be prouder! Congratulations all!

 

 

 

Student Work Placement: Amberley Museum

MA Curating Collections and Heritage student Ellie Bedford takes a moment out of her wide-ranging and dynamic placement at Amberly Museum to reflect on lessons learnt

Amberley Museum is a large 32-acre industrial heritage open air museum in Sussex, housed in the former chalk pits and lime burning business of Pepper and Sons. As well as telling the story of Pepper and Sons, it is also home to collections ranging from road building and narrow-gauge railways to TV and radio, as well as original period buildings. The curator, John Betts, says it is like being the curator of several museums, not one, and after six months of my placement I can’t help but agree.

With such a large and varied collection, spread across a huge site, John has an abundance of work to maintain, audit and care for the collections. This has the benefit of giving me the opportunity to take part in many interesting tasks. I’m here as a volunteer curatorial assistant, as part of a 150-hour placement module for the MA Curating Collections and Heritage at Brighton.

As I near the end of my placement, I have been reflecting on the experience I have gained in so many areas of museum curation. As well as learning to ride vintage bikes (a perk of the job), I have been able to take part in collections auditing, digitizing record cards, conservation cleaning of objects, writing environmental reports, researching and writing interpretation for displays and online exhibitions and integrated pest management.

I am always surprised by the variety and sometimes unexpected tasks involved with working in collections. Each day is unique and there is always something new to do. But a key insight I have come to is in understanding how interconnected museum tasks are. When we learn about auditing, integrated pest management or how to interpret objects, it is easy to think of these tasks as distinct aspects of museum work. During my placement, however, I have seen that these tasks are interlinked, interdependent, and that work on one task can affect how you approach another.

For example, one of the first projects I worked on at Amberley Museum was assisting John with an audit of the TV and radio gallery.  As part of the audit, we physically checked each item (which sometimes was quite the logistical challenge), as well as the corresponding object record card and accession details and worked to fill in any gaps in the information we had. We also started to scan and digitize the object record cards.

John auditing the TV collection!

Having accessible digital records allows us to better understand exactly what is in the collection, as items of interest can be “lost” when part of a large collection such as is present in Amberley. Most of the record cards have photographs on them, which helps us to identify objects.

Once we had a clear picture of what was in the collection and its condition, we were able to develop a better integrated pest management system to help preserve it, and to put in place a programme of preventative conservation. The design of these conservation systems depends on the information gathered at an audit. The auditing process also facilitates research into the collection, and can help when applying for funding bids, as it is easier to show why the funds are needed, and how they will benefit the collection. So an audit of objects in the museum can provide direction for other related tasks. As an added benefit, I found that digitizing the record cards helped me to familiarize myself with the collections.

Another project I have worked on that highlights the value of Amberley Museum’s collections is the Hidden Innovators project. Hidden Innovators is an ongoing project to highlight the contribution of women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to telecommunications, amateur radio, technology, and engineering. I have been tasked with researching and writing about the seventh person to be highlighted: Nell Corry. Nell was a record-breaking early 20th century amateur radio enthusiast who made important contributions to the development of radio technology.

Amberley Museum has her archive, which includes logbooks, newspaper clippings and QSL cards (a type of post card to confirm radiocommunications, which were unique to each enthusiast). As part of my research, I have been preparing Nell’s archive for long term storage in acid-free archival sleeves and storage boxes, as well as reading these primary records to inform my write up of her work on radio. This research of primary documents can be very valuable. In fact, when John was researching the collections to prepare another Hidden Innovators entry, he discovered that Nell Corry’s Morse key was in our collection.

 Nell Corry’s Morse Key

 Archiving QSL cards for long-term storage

An example of a witty QSL card

Researching Nell’s story has shown me yet again how interconnected the various tasks in museum curation are. The need to tell a new story necessitated a re-examination and re-evaluation of existing collections, which in turn led to new connections and understanding from objects that had already been accessioned.

So stay tuned, Nell’s story will go live soon. And after that, there will be another interesting and unique, and potentially quite unexpected task awaiting me at Amberley Museum.

 

Hidden Innovators

 

New Student Exhibition: From Disney to ‘Disneyfication’

BA Art History and Visual Culture and BA Fashion and Dress History students Vasilii Bruni, Albert Holloway, Niamh Carden, Olivia Ratcliffe and Camille Scribner announce their new exhibition, now on display at Pavilion Parade at the University of Brighton

From Disney to ‘Disneyfication’ is an exhibition curated to highlight how Disney established a multi-media monopoly, from its humble beginnings in the 1920s to the global franchise it is today. It considers the impact of ‘Disneyfication’ on materials from theme parks brochures to Mickey Mouse illustrations.

From Disney to Disneyfication display case

Disney as a franchise is at the forefront of rapid Western globalisation, a huge part of twentieth-century media consumption. It has been catapulted into an advertisement empire by the consumerist lifestyle of the 21st century. Our aim with this exhibition is to illustrate the narrative of Disney as a company and its undeniable influence on the Western mass market.

The term ‘Disneyfication’ comes from the field of sociology, meaning:

the homogenization of entertainment into something simplified, controlled and “safe” – reminiscent of the Walt Disney Brand.”

The exhibition includes artefacts produced pre-Disneyfication and post-Disneyfication, including a Mickey Mouse annual from the 1930s and a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-inspired dental hygiene advertisement to encompass the commercialisation and distribution of entertainment through different media.

The exhibit also aims to highlight the sanitisation of mainstream media, championed by mega corporations. It features artefacts from the Marvel and Star Wars franchises showcasing their previous merchandise before their standardised “safer” format that is recognisable as being a product of the Walt Disney Company.

Although we want to call attention to the monopoly Disney has on mega media franchises, we also want to celebrate the universal affiliation with its well-known fictional characters and universes. Disney has been a household name for generations, so we chose items that were recognisable and familiar to all, from casual fans to cult followers. We wanted to ensure that all visitors will have at least one memory they can fondly recall when looking at our display.

Since my childhood, Disney has always been a factor in the media I consume, like the movies I would watch and the books I would’ve read. It is an integral part of lots of people’s childhoods and even going into many of our adult lives, especially now as they branch out and own media such as Star Wars, which is something that I still watch and enjoy. It’s interesting to see how it has changed and developed to appeal to a wider audience and this is why I think it’s a highly interesting topic to base our exhibition upon”, Olivia Ratcliffe, Group Researcher

Starting the 13th of December 2022 students and staff of the University of Brighton will be able to visit the exhibition at the Pavilion Parade building located in the City Campus.

Poster for From Disney to Disneyfication

 

New Student Exhibition – Alison Settle: An Observation

BA Art History and Visual Culture students Lori Bennallick, Ellie-Mae Carter, Romina Valerio Martinez and Holly Owen announce their new exhibition, now on display at Pavilion Parade at the University of Brighton

Alison Settle: An Observation is an exhibition curated to highlight Alison Settle’s importance in fashion journalism and to celebrate her journey as a great influence in the fashion industry. In this exhibition, you will find newspaper cut outs from The Observer, which inform us of Settle’s achievements. There are also digital portraits and a mimic response of one of her potential outfits. Furthermore, the exhibition will include a copy of the famous book “The Clothesline” by Alison Settle, which includes a range of information about her role in the fashion industry and as editor of British Vogue. This curated collection will be a homage to her career as a journalist. Alison Settle became a significant link in fashion between Britain and France. High-end fashion lines such as Schiaparelli and Balmain have described Alison Settle as “The Queen” or “La Reine”.

A dress from the University of Brighton’s dress teaching collection, evoking the type of dress Settle would have recommended to her readers

The “Alison Settle: An Observation” exhibition will showcase from Tuesday 13 December at Pavilion Parade, where all students and members of staff will have access to attend. Pavilion Parade is located in the heart of Brighton, Old Steine. This allows easy access to students and members of staff that live nearby. This exhibition has been organised and curated by four current second-year students, Romina Valerio Martinez, Lori Bennallick, Holly Owen and Ellie-Mae Carter. The artefacts in this exhibition have been carefully picked out and placed to result in an impactful storytelling production of Alison Settle’s career.

Curator Holly Owen is certainly “so pleased with the outcome of this exhibition because women like Alison Settle should be recognised and celebrated for their achievement.” Settle was a female journalist and editor of British Vogue for over a decade, repeatedly encouraging and advising women about fashion and trends. The significance of this exhibition is to shape it as a celebration of how Alison Settle, as a woman, was able to defy gender norms within journalism.

Curator Ellie-Mae Carter sees this exhibition as “perfect for a fan of fashion” and also describes it as a “fashionable take on a prominent female journalist.” The items in the exhibition show that Alison Settle was recognised by the media and took on an important role in the fashion world.

O’Sullivan describes Alison Settle as the “Grande Dame of European Fashion”, which translates to the “Great Lady”. She was seen as a fashion journalist icon whose opinion mattered and influenced many middle-class women. Fashion magazines such Vogue were seen as very elitist and attracted a mainly a middle upper-class audience. One of Settle’s main goals for the fashion industry was to create a platform where British Vogue would become a more practical and affordable concept so that it could impact a much bigger audience.

The images below show clippings from the newspaper The Observer, where Alison Settle’s work was published. Not only was she a great influence for the fashion industry, she also raised many societal issues such as women’s rights with the power she had obtained as a journalist. As stated previously, this exhibition is not only about her celebration as a fashion icon but also as a powerful woman who was able to impact many and use her power to raise many issues and defy gender norms.

 

New Student Exhibition: Kids’ Entertainment – Nostalgia and Modernity

BA History of Art and Visual Culture students Tiffany Barron, Poppy Phelps, Olivia Heim Romero and Alfie Mancell announce their new exhibition, now on display at St Peters House Library

What memories do you have as a child? Perhaps reading a book before bed, or playing a card game with your family at Christmas time? These early childhood memories of game playing are the focus of our exhibition ‘Kids’ Entertainment – Nostalgia and Modernity’.

Bringing together items from both past and present, the exhibition aims to explore the change in childhood across a time period between the early 1800s until present day. With focus on games, nursery rhymes and books, we hope to communicate the relatively quick change that has occurred over the past 200 years. With the rise of social media, quick delivery times and speedy trend cycles, early childhood has never been more changeable. Hours spent playing board games have been replaced.

Items have been chosen in pairs in order to highlight this contrast. The modern card game UNO sits alongside the 1950’s Faraway Tree with the aim of highlighting the change of pace in card games. Having UNO accessible to play for general public adds an element of participation to allow viewers to become more engaged with the topic. Similarly, the 1969 book The Hungry Caterpillar is accompanied by its 2000’s counterpart in the form of a stuffed animal depicting the main character the Caterpillar himself. These are just a few examples of the items that are being used to create the point of the exhibition.

J.C. Sowerby and H.H. Emmerson, ‘Afternoon Tea’, London, Frederick Warne and Co, from the St Peters House Library Collection

Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, from the collection of St Peters House Library

In creating this exhibition it was also important to make it accessible for its target audience. Given the option between two university locations, it was important to choose a location that was both physically accessible and had a lot of foot fall. For that reason, the University of Brighton’s St Peters House Library was selected for its central city location and disability access.

Being located in the foyer of the University of Brighton’s St Peters House Library, we knew that our target audience would most likely be students and academic professionals. Looking at that group, the majority of our target age range would sit within their late teens and twenties. Taking this into account, it was felt that it would be useful to incorporate social media into the exhibition.

Social media is a key element in changing childhood experiences. Parents often use iPads as tools for both education and distraction in today’s modern age, an extreme change from the early 1800s and even from the early 2000s when members of the exhibition team were growing up. In having social media as part of the exhibition highlights the speed at which resources are accessible. Not only does it relate to the topic but it also makes the exhibition more accessible to those who cannot be there or struggle with reading small text labels. Through the use of QR codes attached to the items, viewers will be able to access more in-depth explanations and histories of the items should they so wish. This also means that the viewer could alter the text size on their phone should sight be an issue.

 

 

 

New Student Exhibition: HIV Positivity: Work of those Affected

BA Visual Culture students Imre Bitirim, Ruby Cumiskey, Simona Moccetti and Samantha Williams announce their new exhibition, now on display at St Peters House Library at the University of Brighton

HIV Positivity: Work of those Affected is an exhibition curated to inform and celebrate science, society and the people who have fought this horrific disease. On display there are artworks by two artists who have suffered and sadly passed away due to AIDS related illnesses, Mark Leslie and David Robilliard, as well as more pieces from the St Peters House Library Archives. As this is a powerfully emotive subject, the curators have done everything in their power to make this exhibition accessible for all and have appropriate trigger warnings when necessary.

From December 13 2022 students and staff members of Brighton University will be able to visit St Peters House Library, located on Richmond Place, for an intimate exhibition on the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This exhibition has been set up and organised by four second-year students from the Visual Culture course, Simona Moccetti, Imre Bitirim, Samantha Williams and Ruby Cumiskey.

“We felt it important to give back to this cause by raising money for World AIDS Day. To do this we have placed a charity box at Pavilion Parade and have linked relevant sites where people can donate money,” says curator Ruby Cumiskey.

HIV is still a major health issue globally, and it is thought that 38.4 million people are still living with HIV today. But thanks to science, people can live a healthy life with the correct medication, and with experimental drugs and through extensive research, five people have now been cured of HIV. But this wouldn’t be possible without charitable donations.

“Making our display inclusive and accessible was one of our main goals and we worked hard to make this possible.” Simona Moccetti, curator.

The chosen facility to display the exhibition is St Peters House Library, because it is wheelchair friendly, and has a wider range of people passing through. Within the display are QR codes, with instructions on how to use a QR code, the web address for those unable to use QR codes, and a leaflet if the person does not have a phone or access to the internet.

“These artists you see here [in the exhibit] maintained colour in their lives, although an incurable disease attempted to deprived them of such. Therefore, we felt it necessary to have the vitrine visually light and colourful, although the subject matter may be distressing. We wanted to pay homage to these artists the same way they explored their battle.” Imre Bitirim, curator.

A Tumblr page has been created to accompany the exhibition. One of the QR codes on the display will lead the viewer to the page, where they will find more photos and information of the items, film, TV and documentary recommendations that include stories and information on HIV and AIDS. On the site there are also links to pages where people can donate money to relevant causes. There is also a section where the public can post questions and comments either about the display or about personal experiences they’ve gone through.

“We have selected multiple objects from the St Peters House Library archives, as these objects contain personal experiences whist living with HIV/AIDS.” Samantha Williams, curator.

World Aids Day Poster, 1994, from the collection of St Peters House Library

The items that have been carefully chosen to go into this exhibition include a poster from 1991 that shows many different variations of the red ribbon, which is a symbol of support and solidarity for people who suffer with HIV and/or AIDS. There will be a book with personal photographs from an artist called Mark Leslie, who contracted AIDS and recorded his body going through the painful changes with photography. A book and CD by artist and poet David Robilliard, sadly another artist who suffered from the virus and unfortunately passed away, is also included. There will be an extra QR code linked to Robilliad’s spoken poetry in the display. And finally, a modern comic book about a normal person living with HIV and taking the PREP pill, is included. This comic book is informative as well as enjoyable to read and look at.

A Andrews and J Amaro, Just a Pill, 2020, from the collection of St Peters House

This exhibition aims to be a celebration of people, society and science and not a deep dive into the virus itself. It hopes to be educational, enlightening and sentimental as it has affected so many human beings in the past as well as the present. It is not a topic to be forgotten.

Conservation Work Placement: A Patchwork of Skills

Helping to de-install the mannequins used for Dame Vera Lynn: An extraordinary life at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

MA Curating Collections and Heritage student Harriet Brown reflects on her work placement in textile conservation with Zenzie Tinker Conservation studio.

For the placement module of the MA Curating Collections and Heritage, I worked at Zenzie Tinker Conservation (ZTC). This was an incredibly varied placement where I supported a wide variety of projects.

Over 150 hours, I helped with condition checks at Smallhythe Place, the actress Ellen Terry’s Kent house which is now owned by the National Trust. I participated in a shoe mounting workshop at Worthing Museum and helped with the surface cleaning and packing of the Gage family coronation robes for Firle House. I also helped to make mounts for curtains for Rudyard Kipling’s house at Bateman’s, another property owned by the National Trust in East Sussex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surface cleaning the Viscount Gage’s coronation robes and the coronation robes on display at Firle House

The main project I worked on during my placement was a patchwork quilt from the ZTC study collection. It joined the study collection after Petworth Cottage Museum decided to deaccession the object. In return, ZTC did some vital conservation work on objects in their remaining collection.

 The Petworth Patchwork

This quilt is a nineteenth-century unfinished patchwork quilt, made from a variety of fabrics, each wrapped around a paper template. The quilt was made by someone (most likely a woman) who lived locally in or near Brighton. I discovered this through my close examination of the patches in the quilt as many of the addresses and names of businesses on the patches that were still readable could be traced to locations in Brighton. These were mostly around North Street and Ship Street. The earliest date I found on the papers was the 2nd of August 1859 and the latest date I found was the 30th of October 1870. The large range of dates in the quilt was likely down to the fact that paper was relatively expensive, so scraps would have been saved up over time to be used in a project of this size. Due to the fact this quilt is over 150 years old, several of the papers have naturally started to show wear and tear. Also, the quilt had at one point been stored folded and so there were several large creases running through the fabric and papers. These both provided excellent opportunities for learning about conservation techniques.

Over the course of the 150-hour placement I photographed the patches and carried out research on the patches that were legible and had names and addresses on them. I also researched the practice of quilt making. Some of the patches had more information than others. For example, from one of the patches I was able to find out about a solicitors firm that had been operating in Brighton from 1775 to 2019! (more information can be seen here).

Once this cataloguing was finished, I then surface cleaned the paper side of the quilt. This was done using a vacuum with a brush attachment on the lightest setting and then going over the fabric part of each patch using a makeup sponge. Once I had carried out the surface cleaning, I was taught how to humidify the patches in order to release some of the creases. However, this wasn’t a very effective method, so we moved to using a vacuum table. Using the vacuum table, I was taught how to remove the creases from the papers and the fabrics, as well as how to use Japanese tissue paper to create supports for the paper patch templates to prevent them from becoming further damaged.

 

   

Before and after of two of the patches I conserved on the vacuum table using Japanese Tissue Supports

I am incredibly grateful to have worked on such a large variety of projects whilst on my placement at Zenzie Tinker Conservation as it has helped me to better understand the wide variety of conservation techniques that help make it possible for objects to go on display.