Lizzie Neville runs a small private conservation studio right in the heart of Penzance. The majority of her clients are based in London as that is where she was working up until two years ago when she moved to Cornwall. Her client list includes archives, libraries and galleries such as the British Library, National Gallery, Religious Society of Friends, Royal College of Physicians, and the Society of Antiquaries.
From left: Monika, Lizzie and Clare by the Mount’s Bay in Penzance.
Monika Stokowiec was the first intern and began work in January 2011. She was joined by the second intern, Clare Goulbourn, in October of the same year. As the internships are each eighteen months long it means Monika and Clare will be working together for nine months – and then Clare will work with the third intern for the next nine months. This means the internships overlap with each other. As we both trained at different places and have different backgrounds it is invaluable to have each other. It allows us to share exchange and discuss ideas, and ask questions while working on conservation projects in the studio on a daily basis. This also means some queries can be resolved without always having to go to Lizzie.
An important part of our internships is that one fifth of our time is to be spent on outreach work with the community and local heritage organisations in Cornwall to help spread awareness about conservation and preservation of books and archival materials. Over the past year we have organised and participated in several events, such as the “PRINT” exhibition at the Exchange Gallery where we talked about and demonstrated simple bookbinding techniques to the visitors; we gave a talk at the Penzance Literary Festival about caring for books in the seaside climate; at the Cornwall Record Office open day in Truro we talked to the public about book conservation and preservation.
Learning to sew pamphlets at the "PRINT" Exhibition
In November 2011 Monika did the first of a series of training days for volunteers and employees from local museums, archives and other heritage organisations from around Cornwall. The training day covered topics such as book structure, displaying and handling books, storing and wrapping books, and measuring books for boxing. The course was run twice, and in total twenty six people attended. The next training day, covering topics such as identifying types of damage, dry cleaning of books and documents is scheduled for March. Other training days are in the pipeline, covering making wrappers and folders and undertaking a condition survey.
Learning how to place books on support cradles
Clare is currently working with the Every Child Matters representative, Nicole Broadhurst, in St Ives to organise a session with a local group of school children. The group meets at the “Memory Café”, which is an opportunity for elderly people coping with memory loss to socialise with the children and exercise their minds. The session is in the early stages of planning, but will most likely involve the children and adults making memory scrap books together.
Working in a small studio can feel quite isolated at times, so it has been particularly rewarding to have these opportunities to interact with the wider public and share our enthusiasm with them, and this has been met with a lot of positivity and interest in the subject.
Preparing a training session and teaching is new to both of us, so having the support and opportunity to discuss and share ideas with another intern is invaluable. For example when Monika was preparing for her first training, the preparations were almost finished when Clare joined the studio. But there was still time for her to discuss and practice her plan with Clare, and for Clare to help her to prepare the sample packs. The plan is that the last training session will be run by Clare, so in order to acclimatise Clare to this scary prospect, Monika plans to delegate some of the teaching of the second session to her.
The training days have resulted in making good connections with various institutions in Cornwall, and invitations for visits have been extended to us. We have already contacted a few places, such as Antony’s House, Lanhydrock and The Museum of Witchcraft.
Even though we are both very self-motivated, doing the internship alongside another intern makes staying in the studio after work on winter nights much more appealing. At the moment we are spending Tuesday evenings practicing bookbinding skills, and we have started work on a timeline poster of bookbinding history which we have both been meaning to do for ages.
For further information about what conservation internships involve, check out the Icon interns' poster gallery at http://www.icon.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=848&Itemid=106