Introducing… news!

The Gathering has always been about sharing interesting articles, course reviews and training and development opportunities with the book and paper conservation community, and now we’re pleased to announce we’ve got even more to share!

On a regular basis, we’ll be filling you in on the news, videos and other interesting content that’s been published online. We’re mainly focused on book and paper conservation, of course, but don’t mind straying into related areas of interest when we consider them relevant and newsworthy.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we’ll be posting news on a daily basis, or simply wait and receive a fortnightly – or so, depending on how much we’ve found – roundup via email when it’s published on The Gathering (hint: sign up on the right if you haven’t already done so) . So let’s get started…

The Infill: 8 February 2015 

Oh dear

The big news from the last fortnight, of course, was the ‘I know shouldn’t laugh but I can’t quite stop myself’ report on King Tut’s broken beard. Not nearly as hilarious as Spain’s Ecce Homo debacle, but it still wins a prize.* The Telegraph’s Joe Shute gives a nice roundup of those and some other notable art catastrophes – not all to do with art ‘restoration’, thankfully.

The good news on the burnt paper front…

There’s a potential breakthrough for papyrus scrolls damaged in the AD79 eruption of Mt Vesuvius, which may become legible without needing to be unrolled, through the use of X-ray phase-contrast tomography. Read the story and then check out the fascinating video that shows how it could be done.

Meanwhile in Mali, The Art Newspaper announced a three-day conference on the conservation of ancient manuscripts in that country, many of which have recently fallen victim to intentional destruction by rebel groups.

… and the bad

The news is less good for Bosnia’s national archives, the contents of which, as poignantly expressed in the BBC article, ‘had somehow survived not only two world wars but also the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s – only to be destroyed in an afternoon of rioting during anti-government protests last February’. Here’s hoping that international attention will be drawn to what appears to be a woefully underfunded institution in dire need of funds for conservation, preservation and digitisation.

Bad news in Russia as well, with the possible loss of up to one million historic documents in a fire at a major university library, and terrible news in Iraq where alleged book burnings have been conducted as part of what UNESCO calls the deliberate targeting of  ‘cultural heritage, cultural and religious minorities, and the documents and written evidence of one of the oldest civilisations in human history’.

Funding watch

In economic times such as these, in the face of announcements such as the reduced service at London’s Imperial War Museum  and the threat of privatisation at the National Gallery, it’s heartening to learn that there are organisations who understand the importance of funding conservation. Anyone who works on the conservation of contemporary art has the benefit of being able to include the artist in conservation decisions, and the US-based Contemporary Art Conservation Group has just received a windfall of funding to help train conservators to interview artists. In the UK, the Wellcome Institute, as reported on The Gathering, has just announced an exciting opportunity for library and archive projects, while the Clothworkers Foundation is offering conservators a fellowship worth up to £80K for a two-year research sabbatical.

Now open

If you’ve been following the Manutius in Manchester blog, you’ll know that the John Rylands library has just opened its Merchants of Print: From Venice to Manchester exhibition, featuring an exciting new development in book display cradles. If newspapers are your thing, the British Library’s new preservation-friendly National Newspaper Building and reading rooms are now open for business. And for anyone involved in the conservation of wallpaper, Historic New England has launched an online catalogue,, containing over 6,000 samples from its collection.


Who amongst us hasn’t wondered about the answer to the burning question, ‘How many cochineal bugs does it take to make a pound of cochineal lake pigment?’ If you don’t already know, you’ll find out in the nice little video Renoir’s True Colors: Science Solves a Mystery.

That’s it for this first edition of the round-up. We do hope you enjoyed it, and we’d love to have your feedback on this new feature or on any of the news items we’ve shared, which you can leave in the comment box below. See you next time…

*The Gathering is in no way making light of the negligent handling of cultural heritage assets. But c’mon… you know you laughed when you saw that glue.

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