Earlier this year the wonderful Charlotte Stevenson undertook a curatorial internship here at London Transport Museum. Charlotte is now busy writing her final paper, however she has taken some time out to write about her experience below.
Curatorial (Conservation) Internship 31st May 2011 – 3rd August 2011, by Charlotte Stevenson
Over Summer I completed an internship at London Transport Museum focusing on a conservation project for the Uniform Collection in storage at the LTM Depot. This project was the basis for my final dissertation of my MA in Conservation.
The project was not just about making padded coat hangers so that the costumes are well supported when they hang, the objectives of the project were to conduct condition assessments of the entire collection, perform informed basic conservation treatments to ensure that the garments were clean and pest free, make basic storage enhancements and create guidelines and fact sheets for all treatments, storage enhancements and other preventive conservation treatments performed.
The Uniform Collection in the stores of the Museum’s Depot location with the Statutory Collection and a smaller Handling Collection combined contains a total of 884 objects. Some people would find looking for evidence of insect infestation, deterioration and damage boring but this is a fascinating area of museology. There is nothing I like more than freezing an item that has been infested by moths and then vacuum the evidence and other loose surface dirt away.
This internship greatly improved my knowledge of textiles conservation and collection care as well as integrated pest management. The internship also provided me with a holistic perspective on working in museums, making my career plan to work in museums concrete.
After completing all condition assessments, treatments and guidelines I performed a demonstration at the Curatorial Department Training on August 3rd 2011. Below is a screen shot from a recording showing me making a padded coathanger using polyester wadding, cotton stockingette and needle and thread on a plastic coathanger. You can even try this at home for your precious garments.
Every few months London Transport Museum installs a new Poster Parade which showcases 20 posters from our collection of over 5,000 different poster designs. Curators and Museum Technical Assistants have to arrive at the museum early to make sure the display is ready for when the museum opens.
The poster parades are usually themed. This can be to showcase the highlights of our collection, mark the change of seasons or even to support another exhibition featured in the museum.
This month’s poster parade has been sponsored by CBS Outdoor, a major supporter of the Museum, who have selected and interpreted the 20 posters that are currently on display. CBS Outdoor are the advertising company responsible for the London Underground, bus, tram and rail networks.
Last week the wooden carriage body was delivered to the Festiniog Railway engineering works at Boston Lodge for further assessment. The road transfer from the Museum Depot took place over a two day period, with the final part of the journey involving use of the narrow gauge railway line. The photograph shows the carriage being hauled as a special ‘out-of-gauge load’ through the local town of Porthmadog on its way to the workshop.
The curatorial department has been keen to support the next generation of curators and conservators and as a result has achieved a highly active internship programme. Over the past 12 months the curatorial department has welcomed 9 interns from 6 different university postgraduate courses into the Museum. These interns have been working alongside our curators on both Collections Management and Collections Development projects both at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and at the Acton Depot.
The department has just played host to a conservation student, Charlotte who has been involved in many activities at the museum including helping the curators install a Poster Parade and monitoring for pests in the galleries and at the depot. Her main task however has been to work with the Collections Management team at the Acton Depot with the uniform collection.
Charlotte has been undertaking a collections review and has been assessing the conditions of all our textile collection, cleaning and freezing items where appropriate.
The curatorial department has also just welcomed two new postgraduate students from the University of Leicester who will be working in the department until September.
Following on from my ‘On Broadway’ post, I looked at a station that’s trying to stop their customers from merely passing through without noticing what’s going on around them. Oval Station, like a few others on the Underground network, have a ‘Thought Of The Day’ board, where staff write philosophical and interesting quotes for their customers to reflect on first thing in the morning, or in the evening after a long day at the office.
Passengers only have great things to say about the quotes – one customer liked it so much he bought the station a book of famous quotes as a gift, to use as inspiration!
For the 2013 project, I’m going to pop along to Oval Station every day for a few weeks, photographing the board and collecting the images for the Museum. I’m also going to try and interview some of the staff involved about what inspired them to start the project.
Does your local station have a thought of the day board? What do you think about it? Share your own thoughts here!
Every day, millions of us enter our local station, scan our Oyster card, head down the escalator and jump on a train to work. Other than perhaps stopping to pick up a free paper, top up our credit, or check for service updates, most of us will whiz through our stations week after week without stopping to take in what’s going on around us.
As part of the celebrations for London Underground’s 150th anniversary, film maker Geoff Marshall and I decided to spend a day at Tooting Broadway station, from gates opening to close of play, capturing the comings and goings of life at an Underground station. Arriving at 4.40am to get some shots of the station with the gates still closed, we worked six shifts throughout the day, through the morning and evening rush hour, and capturing the last train leaving the stations and the gates being locked for the night. Staff at the station were fantastic, allowing us to access all areas of the station and explaining what was happening when, ensuring we got a real insight into everything that goes on in a normal day on the Tube.
The outcome of our day is a short film, entitled ‘On Broadway: A Day in the Life of Tooting Broadway’. It’s fantastic – Geoff did a wonderful job with the filming and edit, and I merely came up with the cheesy name! The film is to be added to the Museum’s collection and may even go on display at the Museum in the future. But for now we’ll aim to get the video up on here asap so that we can share it with you all! Watch this space…
Every few months, London Transport Museum installs a new series of 20 original posters from our collection on the first floor of the Museum. These poster parades are themed – sometimes by the season or a special event taking place, sometimes by temporary exhibitions happening elsewhere in the Museum, or sometimes to promote a project the Museum has undertaken.
Curators and museum technicians need to be in the Museum bright and early so that the installation can be completed before the doors open at 10am. This morning, a team installed 20 posters who represent some of the strongest and most iconic designs from our collection. The display showcases and celebrates our book ‘London Transport Posters: A Century of Art and Design’, which will be coming out in paperback in the coming weeks.
In 2013 the Underground will be 150 years old. London Transport Museum is busily preparing a year long programme of events, exhibitions and heritage train runs to celebrate the anniversary. We are also embarking on a new programme of work which involves collecting contemporary material, allowing us to bring our collection up to date.
Over the next few months, I will be undertaking a number of projects with Transport for London staff and members of the public. Whenever an interesting new object or story is collected, I will be sure to blog about it here. From oral history and digital stories, to contemporary art and participatory events, it’s going to be a great year for contemporary collecting!
And I welcome any suggestions you may have about what we should be collecting that represents the Underground today!
As part of the Collecting for 2013 project, I am keen to know what staff who currently work for London Underground think of our collections, and for them to offer their suggestions as to what we need to collect now. Last week, my colleague Simon and I took some Underground related objects to Windsor House, a Transport for London office, and installed a new display in their reception area. Objects include a modern Oyster card holder, an old tile from St James’s Park station, and a model of the first Metropolitan line trains.
We’re asking staff to let us know what they think we should collect for this significant anniversary, and we hope these objects will offer some inspiration.
Here are a few photos of us installing the display.