The Infill: 2 April 2015

Just in time for Easter and – in the UK, at least – a nice, long bank holiday weekend, it’s your big basket of chocolate-flavoured, egg-shaped (in our vivid cocoa bean-infested imaginations, anyway) conservation and cultural heritage treats!

You know you’re all dying to know

And the answer is: no, our Facebook readership’s fascination with urinating cats has not waned. Admittedly, that post is no longer number two on the popularity list, but it’s slipped down just one measly notch since the last Infill. So what, you may ask, could possibly be more interesting than cats? The answer this time is… sigh… more cats. At least these ones are cute and impeccably behaved.

Free stuff!

Who loves free stuff? Who loves art? Who loves free stuff AND art? Well, if you find yourself in that overlapping section of the ‘Free stuff lovers – Art lovers’ Venn diagram, then count yourself lucky. 100,000 times lucky, because that corresponds to the number of high-resolution art images available for download from The Getty. Yes, all for free. No VAT, no sales tax, no licensing fees, no nothing.

Not enough free stuff for you art lovers, you say? Well… you certainly drive a hard bargain. But we think we’ve got something back in the stockroom – we’re pretty sure we saw it the other day when we were checking for misplaced copies of the Magna Carta. Ah yes, here we are: exactly 422 downloadable art books from none other than New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, plus another 109 from the Guggenheim. It’s like all of our birthdays and Christmasses have come at once!

The science and technology corner

In case you missed the press release, 2015 is the UN’s ‘International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies’ (we’re practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation of what 2016 will be the ‘Year of’). To celebrate, we share a nice little piece on the use of light in conservation. It includes a description of what we thought was some clever, outside-the-box thinking on a Rothko mural, but it turns out that not everyone is in favour of digital reconstruction. You may also have been unaware that last week was Museum Week, and The Guardian’s GrrlScientist kicked it off by paying kind tribute to our profession with her piece on ‘The Art and Science of Conservation.

But the really big, exciting science news from last week was this: ‘Ancient manuscript cures the MRSA superbug!’ Well, perhaps that wasn’t exactly how the headline was written, but the fact remains that a 9th-century Anglo-Saxon potion, containing leek, garlic and cow’s bile salts (mmm… we’re salivating already), found in the British Library’s Bald’s Leechbook, could well be a remedy for MRSA skin infections. If that turns your stomach a bit too much but you’re still keen to read an article on germs, perhaps opt instead for Harvard University microbiologist Ralph Mitchell and his quest to stop microbes from destroying cultural artefacts.

Beautiful buildings

This past fortnight we were fascinated by images of the most spectacular libraries in the world. Any of our readers lucky enough to work in one of these incredible places? Conversely, we were devastated to read an update on the aftermath of last year’s fire at the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Library and learn just how many of its artefacts were destroyed. You can read a bit more about this truly iconic building here.

What do maps and museum loans have in common?

Probably a lot, but actually nothing in this case – we just wanted to share these articles and couldn’t come up with a clever title. First, because we love archive discoveries nearly as much as you love cats, we’re happy to spread the news that a copy of ‘The Map that Changed the World’ was taken off the ‘missing’ list after it was found, mis-filed but well preserved, at the Royal Geological Society in London. Second, we sit with a smug grin on our faces as we pass on The Art Newspaper’s dismantling of the wholly unfounded argument that conservators actively hinder exhibition loan activity. Quite to the contrary, they say, loans are booming thanks in part to conservators.

Your video treat of the week:

A delightful two-minute film of Kandinsky in the act of painting, shot in 1926. Check out the links at the bottom for further video footage of famous artists at work.

The final word…

… is from us, and it’s a shameless plug for our new ‘My Favourite Tool’ feature. For our first outing, Cheryl Porter shared with us her lovely and unique Italian porcupine quills. Who and what will we feature next time? You’ll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, why not share a story about your own favourite tool?

Not wanting to be too shameless, however, we’ll actually make that the penultimate word and instead end with one of those pieces that will hopefully make you smile a little bit, and perhaps be a small antidote to all of the recent heart-wrenching reports of cultural heritage destruction in war-torn hotspots around the world. It’s the news that 18 young Cambodian students have successfully graduated from that country’s first stone conservation course, thus ‘[putting] the care of Cambodian heritage back into the hands of local people.’ Well done and best of luck!

So we finish on that happy note, and now we’re off to gorge ourselves on chocolate eggs. Happy Easter, everyone!

Have comments on any of the items above? Leave your feedback below, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for your daily Infill.

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