The Infill: 21 December 2017

The Infill: naughty or nice?

A massive conservation Christmas cracker

The tiny elves that were seconded to us from the North Pole for this holiday season have been working their pointy little boots off, scouring the news feeds for the stories you like best: the sparkly, glittery, good old-fashioned conservation ones that will pack your Christmas stocking to the brim. First out of the sock is the somewhat prickly issue of the rebinding of the Red Book of Thorney at Cambridge University, followed by the Herculean task that was the restoration of the 1663 Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus map in Melbourne. The elves have also crammed in a video of the conservation of a Michelangelo architectural drawing at the Met, the restoration of the longest painting in North America, and the treatment and rehousing of a book of sub-Himalayan fern specimens. Digging past some chocolate gold coins and a pair of socks (you can’t have a Christmas stocking without a pair of socks), we find the ‘100-billion pixel’ conservation feast for the eyes that is the Ghent Altarpiece restoration website and the 2017 AICCM Conservation Treatment of the Year project – no less than the painstaking reassembly of the ‘confetti’ that constituted Australia’s first flag. Finally, because we are the sort of people who plunge our hands deep down into the bottom of the stocking to make sure we have not missed one single molecule of Christmas goodness, we have extracted the conservation of a 17th-century binding produced for (you’re going to love this) the Office of First Fruits and Tenths and the Court of Augmentations, along with two Santa-sized projects: the housing of a hefty Torah scroll at Duke University (USA) and some love for the largest book in the collection of the State Library of Victoria (Australia).

Things we do not believe

We do not believe in the Abominable Snowman. Although we once did, we no longer believe that either the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny exist (but of course we believe in 🎅🏻, otherwise where did all of those elves come from?). We do not believe that Melania feels anything other than repulsion at the thought of Donald’s tiny hands on any part of her body. We do not believe that climate change is a myth, that UK trains will ever really run on time or that animals don’t have feelings.

More importantly, however, we absolutely, with every single fibre of our collective being, do not believe that nobody can help poor Christina Romanowski-Bean with her Buddhist Zen leaves. All she wants to do is preserve for posterity a beautiful and fragile specimen of cultural heritage. She’s not doing it for fame, fortune or a lifetime supply of wheat-starch paste. She just wants to do something nice for humanity. So please help, and please give generously – of your knowledge. And if you don’t have the answer, maybe just a ‘Hey, keep up the great work!’ would be nice. Sometimes we all need a little digital hug.

On the first day of Christmas

My true love gave to me… the brain-bending task of trying to transform conservation and cultural heritage stories into merrie musical tales of game bird-infested fruit trees, incubating waterfowl and dancing male members of the aristocracy. But all the mince pies and mulled wine in the world simply could not induce that witty ditty into being, so we are gifting you instead some News You Can Use. Wondering about the use of commercial paints in museums? Or perhaps you were thinking you should finally learn how to sharpen a 🇫🇷 paring knife. If not, then spare a minute and teach yourself how to make Islamic headbands. Arsenic alert: admirers of 19th-century wallpaper take heed. Concerned about the security situation at your library? Protect it the medieval way: with a curse. Lamination-ophiles really deserve a lump of coal in their stocking. But kindly old Santa has instructed us to give them this report on ‘Peeling away an outdated conservation treatment‘, and we thought you might like to see it too. And for those of you who do, for reasons that we really do not want to know, end up receiving that rock of naughtiness this Christmas, you might be interested in this: ‘Carbon dating explained‘.

The great debate

White lights on your Christmas tree, or multi-coloured? One of our relatives has addressed this conundrum with the purchase of an ingenious string of bulbs that lets you change colour with the mere flip of a switch. And his intra-family death-match struggle for the switch rages. But faithful readers of The Infill know that we are pacifistic colour lovers, so let the light show begin… with the announcement of the much-anticipated Pantone Colour of the Year for 2018: Ultra Violet, to the delight of conservators and conservation scientists around the globe, including the ones who have published online their Pigment Image Database under UV and IR Radiations. As well as these generous folks who have shared with us some ‘selected organic pigments as viewed in normal and long-wave UV light‘. Baby, it’s cold outside. But warm inside. Decide which colour goes where with this handy warm and cool colour decoder. Then take a magical mystery tour inside the Pantone color factory and, finally, revel in the beauty of the newly restored rainbow beaming over George Washington at the National Portrait Gallery in his namesake town.

Your video treat:

may just answer the question that has been burning in your mind since that Art History 101 class at university. Why on earth do babies in medieval paintings look like middle-aged men?

The final word…

… goes to one of those babies: ‘A boat is just a money pit.’ Which is why Santa ain’t bringing you one this Christmas.

In the immortal words of Bing Crosby, courtesy of Irving Berlin, may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white. Especially those of you in the Southern Hemisphere. Now that would be something!
Holiday hugs and cocoa kisses, The Gathering xxx

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