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Blog: Icon Tru Vue winner reports from Berlin

Should we relax environmental guidelines for collections, asks Emilia Kingham, Tru Vue grant winner and conservator at UCL’s Public and Cultural Engagement Department


The current focus of my work is to conserve the collections at the Grant Museum of Zoology and the UCL Pathology collection. The objects in these collections range from skeletons to taxidermy and wax models. However, I have recently been heavily focused on treating the zoological fluid preserved specimens and the fluid preserved pathological human remains.

The grant from Tru Vue allowed me to attend the annual Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) conference in Berlin.

The conference was themed 'Green Museum – How to Practice What We Preach', and provided valuable insight from architects, project planners, collections managers, curators and conservators.

Strict environmental guidelines for collections has done more harm than good in respect to sustainability

The salient point in the conference sessions was that the previous decades of strict environmental guidelines for collections has done more harm than good in respect to sustainability and that we as practitioners need to push forward the idea of relaxing strict temperature and humidity.

Very strict environmental parameters are virtually impossible to maintain and are notorious for energy consumption. Current re-evaluated environmental parameters set realistic goals without putting collections at risk and passive systems of controlling the collection environment are actually very effective.

I was also able to attend a full day of CPD workshops on the conservation of fluid preserved specimens, run by leading experts Dirk Neumann, Julian Carter, Klaus Wechsler and Christoph Meier.


Behind the scenes tour of Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, SPNHC 2016 (Image: Emilia Kingham)

These workshops offered invaluable information and discussion surrounding conservation issues of these types of collections.

Additionally, I was able to learn a new sealing technique for fluid preserved specimens that is not commonly used in the UK, which I will be teaching to my colleagues here at UCL and in other institutions.

Importantly, the conference and workshops cemented the need to collaborate and communicate problems and ideas with colleagues in the field so that information and new knowledge is shared, which in turn supports the advancement of the profession and collection standards.

Icon Tru Vue grants, between £300 to £1,000 per applicant, are intended to help mid-career conservators from around the world attend professional development events such as conferences and training courses. Grants can be used for relevant costs such as event tickets, travel and materials. 

Keep an eye on our career grants page for details on the next round. 

Inline images: Emilia Kingham
​Lead image: Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin; Thomas Quine, CC BY-SA 2.0


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