The Infill: 1 March 2018

The Infill: if it weren’t for those meddling kids…


No, no matter how hilarious it might be to your mates (until they visit you in the big house, that is), it is not cool to break into an exhibition, break off the thumb of an ancient Chinese terracotta warrior, take it home (where you live with your parents) and then toss it into a drawer. Nor is it cool to steal a Degas and then nine years later abandon it, ticketless and without a packed lunch or even a little juice box, on a bus outside Paris. Likewise, stealing U.S. service members’ dog tags from a national archive and selling them on eBay is beyond lame. You know it, we know it and even these cute sniffer dogs know it. And while we’re at it, bulldozing iconic buildings because you’re greedy or destroying works of art when a date goes sour is just not on.

… so here are five constructive things you can do with your hands

    1. Illuminate some manuscripts with inspiration from the sketchbooks of a 15th-century monk.
    2. Mix up some paint using this handy colour wheel chart mixing theory painting tutorial.
    3. (Virtually) explore the newly restored and digitised late-Roman wall paintings in Egypt’s Red Monastery. Wow! We need more of this physical and digital preservation of ancient monuments.
    4. For ancient Romans: put on some ancient Roman boxing gloves, “probably the only known surviving examples from the Roman period”.
    5. Learn some sign language and help the deaf community up their engagement with cultural heritage.

 News you can use

Is your solvent dispenser collection in disarray? Is your isinglass information incomplete? Let the conservators at University College London show you how to fix a broken dispenser tube, while their counterparts at John Rylands University in Manchester explain how they kept cosy on a cold (we assume – it’s the North!) January morning by preparing some purified isinglass. Not necessarily useful in the studio, but possibly handy in a pub quiz: the origin of the term ‘Velcro’, complete with a mildly terrifying photo. ‘Surface tension’ has probably never featured in any quiz other than a chemistry one; so if you’re a bit rusty on the subject, check out this nifty, sparkly demonstration. Finally, it might be obvious to most of us, but if you are unsure about how to handle paper containing arsenic, read on.

Conservations you can peruse

Ouch. That was one ugly attempt at getting headlines to rhyme. As ugly as photographic slides wrapped in tape. Find out how conservator Diana Diaz at the University of Texas, Austin got hers unstuck. 700 pieces of mail buried at sea for over seven decades. Some faded, some in fragments. Read about how Britain’s postal museum conserved the largest underwater collection of letters ever discovered. And here’s a nice conservation quickie: a crumpled-up piece of paper in Chinese script found in a book at the National Library of Australia. What could it be?

‘Detritus’ has long been one of our favourite words. So we were thrilled to see it in this account, richly supported by images and video, of the conservation of the Archimedes Palimpsest. ‘Under way’, however, was a real bugbear for our mum, who staunchly championed ‘underway’. ‘What does it mean to be “under way”?’ she would angrily demand, ‘Could something actually be “over way”???’ Only, as it turns out, according to the OED, as a sort of state of mind. But we digress. We do not wish for our proxy diatribe to detract from the Chester Beatty conservators who boldly dis-bound an early printed copy of Katib Çelebi’s Cihan-numa (Mirror of the World). Paper repairs, at the time of the blog’s writing, were, and we quote, ‘underway’. Another dis-binding recounted in the appropriately titled ‘Unbound’ blog by the Smithsonian Libraries: the 18th-century A History of Animals in need of ‘the full treatment’. Sounds serious.

Mum also loved watching Disney films with us, which is why we were saddened to hear that cels from some of our favourites are under threat. Luckily, it looks like the humidity chamber is going to save the day. But whether a humidity chamber was involved in the recent restoration of a 16th-century Milanese map with an unusual North Pole perspective is questionable, as this particular topographical treasure is apparently the world’s largest. Is it just us, or are we always reporting on the world’s largest map? Gosh, there must be loads of world’s largest maps out there.

Your video treat:

is a three-part series on the conservation of the Salzinnes Antiphonal, which, contrary to what you might think, is totally in favour of phonality.

The final word…

… comes from Sarah Laskow in her piece on interesting items found in books: ‘Can someone please enlighten us as to why anyone would use bacon as a bookmark?’.

We gave up meat for Lent, so we aren’t going to be marking our place with pig parts for quite some time. But we hope you’ll be marking your diaries for the next Infill, coming to your mailboxes soon. Soonish. Definitely at some point this year. Hugs, The Gathering

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