Helping to conserve Charleston’s collection

In our final guest blog post for #VolunteersWeek (1-7 June 2002), Charleston’s conservation volunteer Diana Marriott takes us behind the scenes of museum conservation work and writes about some of the projects she’s worked on at Charleston. 

Conservation cleaning in Clive Bell’s bedroom and the studio. Photos © Emily Hill.



I have been a volunteer at Charleston for 5 years now. I was interested in doing volunteer work that made use of the years of skills I had built up working as a paper and museum object conservator, art courier and exhibition technician.

The timing was perfect. My freelance work was slowing down as this volunteer opportunity came up at Charleston. In the beginning I had very little knowledge of Charleston, Bloomsbury, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. I have enjoyed learning much more about the artists while working directly with their drawings, notebooks, preparatory sketches, scribbles and paintings in the collection.

I started in the attic working with the different curatorial interns on the Angelica Garnett bequest who were photographing and cataloguing the unique collection. I began checking the condition of the objects for damage, mould and mildew. Once the objects were photographed, given unique numbers and catalogued I began repackaging the works of arts on paper and over 120 sketchbooks using acid free paper and card. I created folders, enclosures and portfolios which will house the works safely for years to come.

Some of the sketch pads in their custom made enclosures. Photo © Emily Hill.

This is an ongoing project. It has been challenging not least because of the cramped conditions and temperature range in the work area. But nevertheless it has been a privilege to work with the objects. An added bonus is that I can pass on knowledge and best practice in the conservation and preservation of the collection to both members of staff and the public. I also get a unique view down on the garden as it changes throughout the year and get to eat lunch during the summer by the pond.

Since the opening of the art galleries it has also been a real joy being involved with and working with the curators on the new exhibitions. This has involved cleaning and preparing objects for display and condition reporting on loans. I am looking forward to getting back to working at Charleston.


Read more Charleston memories from volunteer and supporter Sally Handford here.

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