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Use Not Abuse

A Q&A with Deborah Walton on the 2nd Annual SHARE Collections Care Conference

Deborah WaltonFollowing a successful launch last year, the SHARE Collections Care Conference is returning on 20 January 2016 in Hughes Hall, Cambridge. Organised by Deborah Walton, University of Cambridge Museums Regional Conservation Officer (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough), this year’s theme is ‘Use not Abuse’. We took a moment of Deborah’s time to find out more about the day’s events.

Hello Deborah, let’s begin with a vital question: who is the SHARE Collections Care Conference for?

DW: The conference is for anyone who works in or with museum or private collections, paid or unpaid, experienced or inexperienced, in the East of England… Actually, I’m not fussy, you don’t even have to be in the East of England… the more the merrier!

Q: Equally important, what happens on the day, and what will attendees gain from being there?

DW: On the day we have eight presentations, three workshops and a Q&A session. This year I wanted to focus on examples from within our own regional museums, as last year we had a significant number of external speakers. We have some really good projects going on locally and I felt it was time to celebrate these and hopefully enable everyone to feel that these sorts of projects and ethical debates were relevant to them and not something that only applied in big national museums.

Q: Can you tell us more about the conference title ‘Use not Abuse’?

DW: As a conservator my default position regarding object preservation is naturally to keep everything in a dark room with a stable climate and to keep all people away in order to maximise the lifespan. Obviously this actually renders collecting anything almost pointless so a balance has to be struck. The point of this conference is to look at various ways people have been able to ‘Use’ collection material without ‘Abusing it’. We’ll be covering; information generated from object research at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Practical ways of minimising damage with the Southend presentation. In a joint presentation the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and Sedgwick Museum will be looking at access for the visually impaired, if replica or real objects are of equal value for touch interpretation, if 3D printing is a realistic method of object replication at the moment with the technology we can realistically afford. There will then be workshop sessions on costume mounting (from Southend Museum), 3D printing (from the Sedgwick Museum), touch tours (from SPRI) and a special session lead by Robert Entwistle, Senior Conservator from Ipswich, where delegates can talk to a conservator and where SHARE will be gathering information about wants and needs on collection care to help us plan the next training calendar.

The afternoon session is a mammoth exploration of the working object dilemma. Can you ‘Use’ an object without destroying it, how do you experience and understand an object that is meant to be moving or working without ‘running’ it, how do you preserve the skills of doing so without practicing and demonstrating them. SHARE has an amazing Heritage Engineering Network from which two of these presentations are drawn and we’ve been very fortunate in that the National Trust and Norwich Cathedral are also coming to tell us about their work in this area. We have a locomotive, a dredger, a religious object and a clock – illustrating the huge range of objects which fall into this category. The conference will finish with an open discussion forum on working objects in which all speakers for the day are invited to participate and all delegates are welcome to contribute.

Q: You have a fantastic range of speakers. Are there any talks you are particularly looking forward to?

DW: The conference has a swim suit section… how many times am I going to get the chance to say that?! Each time I talk to one of the speakers I get really excited about their topic. I’ve just been looking at George Monger’s Dredger slides and got all exited, before the break I had a really interesting meeting with Christina Rozeik about her findings from the SPRI touch tours. I think that is the case for all the presentations, as soon as I’m focused on one I want to know everything about it. Personally I can’t pick a favourite at the moment.

Q: As we approach the second conference, do you have any particular highlights or successes from the inaugural conference you would like to share?

DW: Ellie’s excellent blog post from last year sums it up better than I ever could.

There were many small successes from the day – such as Sandra Freshney now agreeing to do a full day archives training session for SHARE after her successful workshop at the conference. Personally I think the overall success is that we were able to prove the appetite for collections care and we’ve now been able to promise a collections conference every year until 2018. 2017 is on emergency planning and I’ll be getting straight on that as soon as this year’s conference is finished.

Q: Finally, where can we find out more about the conference and past events?

DW: The SHARE website has all the details and Liz Elmore at the SHARE office is frantically adding more as they come in. We are finalising presentation titles etc this week so it is all going up as we get it. The SHARE Networks page is a great source of information about what small groups have been up to as well.

If anyone is not on the SHARE Museums East mailing list then they are missing out on current news too, so please make sure you are signed up for that:

Last year’s conference generated some really interesting resources which can be found on the SHARE website.

The SHARE Collections Care Conference takes place 20 January 2016, 10am – 4pm in Hughes Hall, Cambridge. Find out more and book your place.

One comment on “Use Not Abuse

  1. Pingback: Collections Care Conference: Summary | University of Cambridge Museums

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