Day Eight. Chemistry lessons, marking and how to unmake a mess...

Written by Helen Merrett

Our jam packed day started with a presentation from Pieta on the various types of materials we find in museum collections, and how they can be used in a variety of ways and how they can break down over time.

Next up was Alex with the very important Health and Safety briefing before we started our work with chemicals and sharp tools. Once they were all kitted up with their gloves, masks and goggles, the group was split into two, led by Alex and Pieta to demonstrate how to make the two types of Paraloid we use in museums to mark objects with their accession number.

Pieta demonstrates how to mix Paraloid solutions to one team of participants

Pieta demonstrates how to mix Paraloid solutions to one team of participants

Alex discusses with her team why clear labelling of chemicals and adhesives is important.

Alex discusses with her team why clear labelling of chemicals and adhesives is important.

 

Now they had their tools ready for marking, Sophie gave a demonstration on the different types of marking we use – Paraloid, Japanese tissue, sewn in labels and just simply using a pencil when it comes to paper materials. Split into three groups everyone then had a chance work on some sample materials to try out each technique – learning that a steady hand and the ability to write on very small things are key skills in this kind of work!

Sophie demonstrates some of the different methods we use to label objects

Sophie demonstrates some of the different methods we use to label objects

 

After lunch was their chance to clean up the mess Alex and I had created on our travels, with muddy baskets, paint stained textiles and compacts we’d managed to spill copious amounts of nail varnish over! It turns out museum workers are surprisingly messy outside of work, but luckily our students did a wonderful job of cleaning it all up! They tried and tested different methods of cleaning to see what the affects were to each type of material, looking under microscope to see more clearly the damage you can do without realising. 

Having a go at reconstructing some broken ceramics

Having a go at reconstructing some broken ceramics

Learning how to wield a scalpel.  Removing paint from a piece of metal sheet may seem like an easy job when you have some nice sharp tools.....

Learning how to wield a scalpel.  Removing paint from a piece of metal sheet may seem like an easy job when you have some nice sharp tools.....

......but looking through the microscope whilst doing so soon made the students realise how easy it is to scratch a surface.

......but looking through the microscope whilst doing so soon made the students realise how easy it is to scratch a surface.