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Review of the Ship Model Conservation Course at the Rijksmuseum

A ship model from the collection of the Rijksmuseum is awaiting X-Ray

Review of the 'Ship Model Conservation Course: Understanding Techniques for Research and Conservation' at the Rijksmuseum, Monday 7 November to Thursday 10 November 2016, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Written by Davina Kuh Jakobi, Junior Conservator for Ship and Scale Models, Rijksmuseum.

With support from partners such as the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum of the Netherlands), and the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Arts, and Science (NICAS), the Rijksmuseum was able to organise and host a four-day course from Monday 7 November to Thursday 10 November entitled 'Ship Model Conservation Course: Understanding Techniques for Research and Conservation' at the Rijksmuseum Atelier building in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Aimed at the collections managers, curators, and conservators of institutional ship model collections, the course was offered as an extension of the course previously-offered by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (Ship Models: Care, Conservation, Display).

The Rijksmuseum’s 'Ship Model Conservation Course: Understanding Techniques for Research and Conservation' examined a range of scientific and instrumental analysis techniques that may be considered to be of particular use for the research, examination, and conservation of ship models. The course included a combination of informative presentations, interactive discussions, and practical demonstrations given by an inter-institutional and multidisciplinary team of conservators, curators, and scientists. Techniques were illustrated by ship models from the Navy Model collection of the Rijksmuseum. As a result, participants gained first-hand experience about the possibilities and limitations of scientific analysis as well as a better understanding of which questions can potentially be answered by particular research and analytical techniques.

Booked out

Within a week of announcing the 'Ship Model Conservation Course: Understanding Techniques for Research and Conservation', all available spots were fully booked out, indicating the overwhelming need for and enthusiasm for this type of course. The first day of the course served as an introductory study day and networking experience, and was attended by 25 participants representing 15 different institutions from 9 countries. The morning took place at the Rijksmuseum Atelier where welcome messages and general introductory talks were followed by a tour of the Furniture and Ship Models, Metals, Paintings, and Textile Conservation Departments. After lunch, the day continued at the Scheepvaartmuseum Depot, with a tour of the Ship Model Conservation Department and the storage facilities. Introductory talks in the Scheepvaartmuseum auditorium emphasised the importance of object-based research and multidisciplinary collaboration in research and conservation. This was followed by a gallery talk and tour of the yacht model display and afterwards, participants took part in a lively discussion and networked over drinks provided at the Scheepvaartmuseum.

Participants examine three ship models at the Scheepvaartmuseum ship model restoration workshop

The entirety of the course were attended by 15 participants representing 10 different institutions from 7 countries. The second day focussed on the topic of imaging, with lectures provided to introduce the theory of each technique was followed by practical demonstrations. A talk about endoscopic examination and an introduction to microscopy was followed by a demonstration of digital microscopy using Hirox RH-2000. During this time, the various features of the Hirox were discussed and participants had the opportunity to use the equipment themselves.

In the image above, Davina Kuh Jakobi sets up the equipment to examine the tool marks of a ship model from the collection of the Rijksmuseum. In the image below, Jolanda van Iperen demonstrates digital microscopy using the Hirox RH-2000 in the furniture and ship model conservation atelier at the Rijksmuseum

After lunch, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) was introduced in a lecture and demonstrated using an example of decorated leather wallpaper. Two final lectures discussed 3-D imaging techniques: a lecture on browser-based interactive stitched images and side-by-side imaging and mapping was followed by a lecture discussing a computer modelling project at the National Maritime Museum. This was followed by a gallery talk and tour of the Navy Model Room.

Rob Erdmann demonstrates an interactive stitched image of a ship model from the collection of the Rijksmuseum in his lecture

The third day focussed on non-destructive imaging and analytical techniques. A lecture introducing ultraviolet (UV) light and infrared (IR) spectroscopy was followed by a demonstration of the techniques using half models from the collection of the Rijksmuseum. After lunch, a lecture discussing the potential and limitations of X-Ray was followed by a demonstration of the technique using both the standing (fixed) Bruker AXS Microanalysis GmbH ARTAX as well as the portable Olympus DELTA (Premium) Handheld XRF Analyzer units on metal elements from the Capelle and Thetis ship models from the collection of the Rijksmuseum.
 

On the left, Sara Creange demonstrates XRF (ARTAX) using a ship model from the collection of the Rijksmuseum and on the right, Arie Pappot demonstrates portable XRF (Bruker) using a ship model from the collection of the Rijksmuseum

Finally, a talk about X-Ray was followed by a practical demonstration of the technique using the GE Eresco 280 MF tube head with Seifert DP435 manipulator system with C-arm and the Thetis ship model was imaged.

Sara Creange provides a demonstration of X-Ray in the control room

The fourth and final day of the course focussed on sampling and interventive analysis techniques in a series of lectures. A lecture discussing sampling taking and embedding techniques was illustrated with samples taken from the ornate stern carvings of the William Rex, a large-scale 17th century ship model on display at the Rijksmuseum. The stratigraphy of the samples were analysed and imaged using digital microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and results were presented. Then, an introduction to Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) was provided and illustrated with examples of surface coating from various ship models belonging to the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. In the afternoon, an introduction to wood identification and analysis was followed by an introduction to Dendrochronology. Then radiocarbon (C-14) dating was discussed. Finally, an introduction to fibre identification and analysis techniques was provided. Afterwards, participants evaluated the course and decompressed over drinks provided at the Rijksmuseum.

Participants enjoy a traditional family-style Dutch/Indonesian “rijsttaffel” together

Ultimately, the course has provided a platform for curators, conservators, and researchers for ship models to gather together and gain a better understanding of the potential and limitations of various analytical techniques for the object-based research of ship models. It received positive reviews and from participants and can be regarded as an overall success. Most importantly, the format for this course can be modified for application in other fields of conservation as well. The Rijksmuseum is looking forward to hosting this course again in the future, on a rotating basis with its sister course at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
 

Please note that this text contains excerpts from the course review that will published in the
ICOM-CC Theory and History Working Group Newsletter 2017 (citation forthcoming).

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