This blog follows my placement with Research & Cultural Collections at the University of Birmingham in January 2014, where I will undertake a range of collections management projects to further develop my skills in research, cataloguing, exhibition and preventive conservation.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Third week: Brain washing

This week has allowed me to focus on two ongoing, and very different projects in much greater depth. At the Barber Institute of Fine Arts I have been undertaking research for an online exhibition of material from Lady Barber’s archives. Additionally, at the Wilson Conservation Studio I have been carrying out basic conservation treatments to a series of medical waxes.

As previously mentioned, the anatomical wax models were created by Friedrich Ziegler during the late 19th century and were used as teaching tools in the Medical School. From a sizable collection, four of the waxes have been selected for the exhibition curated by Professor Alice Roberts, ‘The Art of Anatomy’, on display at the Cadbury Research Library from 3 February – 18 June 2014.

The Cadbury Research Library Flickr stream featuring images from the exhibition can be viewed here:
After a thorough search through the conservation literature on the composition of wax models and the various treatment methods available, a suitable approach was devised in consultation with Clare Marlow (Research & Cultural Collections), Sarah Kilroy and Marie Sviergula (Wilson Conservation Studio). The wax surfaces were initially dry-cleaned with a vacuum and a soft, sable-hair brush. After testing, the models were then wet-cleaned with cotton swabs and an appropriate solvent in a fume hood to remove the ingrained dirt.

A long process, but one with a very satisfying end result!
'Brain washing' in the fume hood at the Wilson Conservation Studio (Photograph: Sarah Kilroy)

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