Thoughts on a Packed Day With Conservation and Scientific Research (Elizabeth Asafo-Adjei, ITP 2019, Ghana)

Written by Elizabeth Asafo-Adjei, Curator, Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (ITP 2019, Ghana).

I look with interest when some museum visitors sometimes try to figure out how the exhibits are displayed. They deliberately do this to answer a question of their curiousness. What is that curiosity? It’s quite simple though: Do museums pay any attention to their objects and the information we display? Yes, we do!!

Visiting the Scanning Electron Microscope Room

This is done in collaboration with various departments, but particularly conservators. Conservation, Scientific Research and Collection Care is an intensive session I know every ITP fellow can relate to; I know I will never forget it!  We had the chance to briefly meet the Conservation team and tour two Scientific Research Laboratories. Considering the British Museum has over 8 million objects in their collection, the conservators manage these objects well. The ITP members were briefed and divided into two groups; each group visiting the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) room and the X-radiology room. The SEM analyse the components of the objects for trace of materials and the techniques used in its making.  X-radiology provides imaging of the object for in-depth understanding, techniques and material composition. The laboratories help reduce the pressure that comes with the handling of the objects for analysis during conservation.

I was captivated by the Conservation Studios, where a number of conservation works were in progress.  For instance, there was paperwork from the artist Rembrandt.  Crucially, the conservation processes has no chemicals involved.

Fabiana Portoni (Preventative Conservator) explaining the equipment on display to some ITP fellows

Though there were lots to learn, we had an afternoon session with Fabiana Portoni on Preventative Conservation. We discussed the risked management of object safety. She displayed some of the equipment used in controlling the risk we discussed. It was great to know that some of the equipment can transfer object condition data to phones and computers.

Practice makes perfect! Object mounting exercise

Our last session for the day was Collection Management Training. This was a marathon session; learning how to pack and unpack objects, care and access objects and how to mount objects for display – all in a practical session! The mounting session was the best part of me, although it required a lot of concentration and I was quite tired! But I never gave-up, until I finished the task at hand. It’s a day that cannot be compared with any other!