Preparing the High TEA Exhibition - May 2011 to April 2012
Of hundreds of potential objects, a selection had to be made of the oldest, strangest, smallest and most recognizable tea related ceramics. Each vessel was carefully selected not only to reflect the history of tea, but also to showcase some of the finest and porcelain tea wares in the University’s collections. An important aspect, of the museum objects themselves required, first and foremost minimal intervention, but also specialist cleaning to remove accumulated surface dirt and airborne damaging contaminants such as dust, and where stability of the ceramic was at stake, more advanced interventive treatments. Since most of these ceramics are donated or bequeathed to the University, they are rarely in good condition and their use and history is told through their evident cracks, stains and chips. The Conservator plays a vital role in any museum collection, preparing objects for exhibition and ensuring the longevity of the collections. Although most of the over 100 museum pieces on this exhibition are ceramic, the few metal objects on display also received the conservator’s attention and specialist care.
Conservation of 101 ceramics project – January to June 2010 The UP Arts Objects Conservation Facility has the opportunity to focus on in- house conservation of ceramic objects and vessels in the University of Pretoria’s Art and Heritage collections.
From January 2010, conservators have prepared and conserved over a hundred ceramic items for the 101 Ceramics Exhibition opening to the public from the 14 July 2010. This exhibition showcases the ceramic collections of the University of Pretoria and the UP Arts Objects Conservation Facility had the herculanean task of cleaning and conserving this magnificent and valuable collection. Each ceramic needed to be meticulously documented, researched and photographed. Treatment proposals were discussed and evaluated before intervention could be carried out. Where required remedial treatments were applied in order to stabilise the ceramic, and if necessary, aesthetic re-touching, hand-painting and finishing applied. A challenge inherent to the sensitive nature of the ceramics was to meet the subtle balances between retaining the object’s integrity, whilst at the same time having to visually integrate the object’s surface to restore visual appeal for the ceramics public display. This ceramic conservation project was a milestone in terms of initiating conservation of the University ceramics on such a large scale. The ceramics will undoubtedly be aesthetically enjoyed and their deep history appreciated by exhibition audiences. When viewing these remarkable ceramics, take a moment to contemplate the immense amount of conservation work and dedication by the conservators. Although the applied conservation will still be visible to the naked eye, it does not however detract from the beauty and shape of the ceramic.