University of Cambridge Museums

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My Museum Favourite: Prayer preceding the Mass and Prime

mmf-logo-255With over 5 million works of art, artefacts and specimens within our collections, how exactly do you go about choosing a favourite? This was the challenge faced by staff and volunteers across the museums and Botanic Garden when they were invited to provide a personal response to their favourite specimens or objects. The result is My Museum Favourite, a guide which puts together a capsule collection of preferred picks (a bit like a personal tour guide for your pocket).

From revealing the painstaking conservation behind a 15th century illuminated French manuscript to describing the charms of a chubby baby in plaster cast form, the individual accounts offer unique insights and perspectives on an amazing range of items. Each week we will be highlighting a different ‘favourite’ for your delectation and delight.

To find a full list of favourites and their locations download your own guide here.

Prayer preceding the Mass (Marlay Fr. 6) and Prime (Marlay Fr. 4)
Sibel Ergener, ICON Intern for Conservation of Illuminated Manuscript Fragments
The Fitzwilliam Museum

Choosing just one favourite object is very difficult, so I will point you towards two manuscript fragments in the Rothschild Gallery; Prayer preceding the Mass (Marlay
Fr.6) and Prime (Marlay Fr.4) in case number 16.

I am particularly fond of these fragments and their presentation in this case. As objects they are both stunning examples of 15th century French manuscript illu

mination and the detail in each of them is exquisite. If you look at the bottom-most initial on Marlay French 4 you will see a tiny bee painted inside the letter D. Even under high magnification the detail in this little insect – one of many illuminations on just this single leaf – is exquisite and it never fails to thrill me.

These manuscript fragments also illustrate some of the conservation concerns I have faced as an Icon intern at the Museum, as well as a number of the conservation techniques I have implemented to address them. Marlay French 6, on the left, is lined with paper. This has caused stress to the parchment and media. However, the provenance and sale details which are written on the paper lining are an important part of the object’s history and it was necessary to preserve them.

The physical needs of the parchment must be considered sympathetically when mounting manuscript fragments, as this is the crucial finale to their conservation treatment. The mounting solution which we came up with and implemented here is detailed on a panel in this case. The mounting system is discrete, aesthetically pleasing and will ensure the object’s long-term preservation. Ultimately the completion of this project – and particularly the success of this mounting technique – is something I am very proud to have worked on during my time at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

One comment on “My Museum Favourite: Prayer preceding the Mass and Prime

  1. Chas Spain
    October 27, 2014

    Thanks for sharing some of your experience and insight here. The dedication to conserving and understanding is a true unseen art.

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This entry was posted on October 27, 2014 by in Behind the Scenes, News and tagged , , , , , .
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