The Conservation Department in The Bowes Museum cares for and conserves the collections, both on a day to day basis and for the longer term.
Caring for the collection includes daily housekeeping, dusting items so they are presentable and don’t become ingrained with dirt, monitoring for pests and the environment, moving items in and out of storage and making sure they are displayed safely so visitors can enjoy them. This is the responsibility of the preventive conservation technician with the rest of the staff.
The conservators also help to prepare items for exhibitions and to maintain displays.
At present there are three conservators in the department. They work with a wide range of items from oil paintings to decorative art, social history and archaeological items. Conserving means more in depth cleaning, such as removing discoloured varnish, or stabilising them, for example repairing a damaged piece of furniture or reattaching tiles to a new support. Items that cannot be conserved in house are sent to conservators locally or nationally.
The conservators have to understand the physical nature of the items in their care, how they were made, what they are made from, and how they age. They can then work out how to slow the aging process and restore them only when necessary.
The department hosts a number of students every year for both short term and long term placements and internships. There are also a number of places for volunteers.
When possible conservation is carried out in the galleries where there are often talks about the projects and activities with the education department.
Through C.A.N. (the Conservation Advisory Network) the department works with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums to help museums with conservation across the North East and in partnership with Beamish to museums in County Durham.
To read about some of the work our Conservation team has recently undertaken, see Recent Conservation Projects.