The Infill: 17 November 2016

The Infill: making conservation and cultural heritage reporting GREAT again!

Mea culpa

Our mailbag was positively brimming with angry letters last month. ‘A typo? A typo?? How could you???’ was the general sentiment. It seems that our attempt at majuscular humour fell a bit flat. So apologies to everyone who thought ‘HaD it up to here with Hillary and Donald/Couldn’t give a Toss about Clinton and Trump?’ was a mistake (or three mistakes for the price of one, if you want to nitpick). Sometimes you write something clever, sometimes you write something lame. Sometimes that late-night, drunken phone call to your ex is a good idea, sometimes it’s not. And sometimes, after having cast your vote in a responsible, orderly and democratic fashion, you go to sleep thinking all is right with the world, but sometimes you wake up to find that Western civilisation is on the brink of collapse. Go figure.

Spotlight on Scotland

‘Why Scotland?’ you might ask. To which we reply, ‘Why not Scotland?’ After all, there seems to have been a slew of recent stories on ‘The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth’ floating about, so who are we not to give the people what they want? We begin with a feel-good account of the restoration of an old Scottish remembrance poppy, and then delve into some gorgeous hi-res images of the medieval Aberdeen Bestiary, a bestiary being, of course, ‘a descriptive or anecdotal treatise on various kinds of animal, especially a medieval work with a moralizing tone’. Ahh, who doesn’t love a moralizing tone? Certainly these 33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed in You do. Especially number 15. But we digress. Are you Scottish or have you got Scottish roots? Always felt a strange urge to straddle a broomstick? Then perhaps you should check out The Names of Witches in Scotland, a 1658 manuscript now published online, adding a new twist to genealogical research. Like witches (cartoon ones, at least), Victoria Regina was fond of a black dress. But here’s a pretty brown one: a queen-sized tartan frock that features in ‘Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe’. Coming to a royal palace near you.

Every vote counts!

Here’s one election that will probably neither sink nor save the world, but we’re curious to know what you think… because ‘digitalize’ really bugs us for some reason. However, if we’ve learned one thing in 2016 it’s that the people gots to have their say.

We’re all about the books…

Books with hidden paintings on their edges. Books in libraries like the Lost Library of a 16th-Century Magician Who Spoke to Angels or the defiantly re-opened, ninth-century library in Fez. Books in bookshops like the late 18th-century Temple of the Muses in London, run by ‘the man who invented bookselling as we know it‘.  Books made of resilient stuff, like the 900-1250AD Mayan Grolier Codex, the oldest one to survive the Spanish Conquest, or these ten mysterious ancient codices, some of whom ‘continue to completely baffle archaeologists and other scientists’. And books that aren’t quite as sturdy, like the Museum of London’s mysterious burnt Bible: ‘a bibliographical puzzle… one very battered book’. But we’re especially all about the books that receive the loving conservation care they so deserve, like the Book of Dimma, beautifully rebound at Trinity College Dublin, and these ‘grandpas in the bookstack’ parchment bindings at the National Library of Australia.

… and the paper

But not so much this month. All we’ve got is a mino washi paper video, a burnt-up, mangled bunch of archive documents at the US National Archives and a paper grain tutorial. Really sorry about that, paper. Do you think if we stuck in some stuff about the craft of making brushes and ‘the remarkable history of the humble pencil‘ nobody would notice? Ooh, and Burmese gold leaf – everyone wants to know how Burmese gold leaf is made! (Side note: we’ve been to Burma, and the gold leaf beating is pretty amazing.) And now that we’ve crossed the Paper Rubicon, we’re just going to shamelessly promote a few stories about colour: ‘the arsenic pigments that poisoned the Victorian age‘, ‘The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts‘ and ‘More Vibrant Tales of Obsolete Pigments‘. And… well, well, well, what have we got here? We just looked behind the sofa and found another paper article, rather daringly called ‘What Paper Is, and Is Not‘. Sounds like a bit of an existential crisis there.

Your video treat:

is the guilty pleasure of watching Vermeers and Rembrandts, amongst others, leap from the static canvas through the wonders of digital technology.

The final word…

… could only belong to the museum employees who got the last laugh a whole 17 times. “Outside of the museum, never put your hand into a hole that you can’t see into.” Words to live by.

And so we close another chapter in the Book of Infill. Parting is such sweet sorrow that we shall say goodnight till it be morrow. Or next month. Or maybe in the new year if we’re too busy knocking back Christmas cocktails. Cheers, The Gathering

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