Galkoff's Butcher Shop: Conserving a local landmark
Anna Dembicka has just finished her 6-month Icon Internship in Ceramics Conservation supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund working with Lynne Edge ACR of Edge Conservation Services. This was a highly focused internship which formed part of the joint project, Galkoff’s and the Secret Life of Pembroke Place, between Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the Museum of Liverpool (MoL) which began in July 2016. Read on to hear Anna's reflections on the last six months.
Why is it so important that this particular object is conserved? There are few people in Liverpool who don’t immediately recognize the green façade of the tiled Galkoff kosher butcher’s shop, an iconic feature of the once central and vibrant hub of urban life that was Pembroke Place. People tell of childhood memories being sent on errands to the Galkoff’s or simply forever passing by on their way shopping or to university campus, as has been the case for me. Even years after the butcher’s closed in the 1970s, the shop front has been a local landmark and its deteriorating condition has been sad to witness (fig.1). Efforts had been made to save the Galkoff’s from falling into ruin, but it is not until now that it became possible to launch a conservation project, which has seen the tiles saved from destruction and re-displayed at the Museum of Liverpool.
And let’s not forget that Galkoff’s is also the last remaining tiled kosher shop with Hebrew writing, assigning it national value as well!
Figure 1: Galkoff's Kosher Butcher's shop prior to the removal of tiles, December 2017
Early stages. My involvement with the project began in March 2018, three months after the initial stages of the conservation process commenced. The removal of the tiles was the first step, as the building had become structurally unsound and is to be demolished. Elaine Tierney and Steven Edwards, under the supervision of conservator Lynne Edge ACR at Edge Conservation Services, very carefully and painstakingly removed the tiles from the building, working in less than ideal conditions in freezing weather in December! This process was far from straightforward as many of the tiles were bonded so strongly onto the walls that they had to be removed with layers of cement, metal mesh and on occasion even bricks attached to their backs (fig.2)! Forcing the tiles off this backing on site would have risked causing significant damage and was therefore not an option.
Figure 2 (left): Tiles before cement removal
Figure 3 (right): Anna being trained on cement removal
Once the tiles had been transported to Edge Conservation workshop in Little Crosby, work on careful reduction of backing could commence. This is the process, which marked the beginning of my Icon internship with Lynne. It was fascinating to see the amount of specialist skill required to do this task, keeping any damage to tiles to absolute minimum. A band saw, tile cutter and a couple of angle grinders were used and I got the chance to try it for myself under the careful eye of Elaine and Steve (fig.3).
What was the most exciting part for you and why? Once the backing was reduced (not completely removed to avoid damage to tiles), I was able to start the cleaning process. Under Lynne’s supervision, a cleaning methodology was devised and it was great to learn to use techniques new to me (such as steam cleaning) and see the results they achieved, as well as monitor water ingress from cleaning to judge drying time. This was important to know prior to consolidation and bonding to avoid trapping moisture within tiles and causing damage. The glazed surface as well as the ceramic tile body was cleaned along the breaks and the difference was amazing (fig.4 and 5). It felt like the shop front was finally getting the attention it deserved!
Figure 4: Front before cleaning
Figure 5: Front after cleaning
Later in the process it was equally exciting to see the tiles come together on large Cellite panels, making replica missing fragments (fig.6) and in-painting them to avoid the eye being drawn to any damage. After grouting between the tiles (fig.7), it really started to feel like the project was coming together and the results of months of hard work were clearly visible.
Figure 6 (left): Otoform moulding material and Crystacal plaster used to replace missing parts of of chequered tiles.
Figure 7 (right): Anna working on the instillation at the Museum of Liverpool.
What was the most interesting thing you came across? It was really interesting to see the evidence of how the tile façade had been looked after in the past. While cleaning, we discovered that the yellow lettering showed signs of scratches left by scrubbing- marks from the days when the owners took pride in the appearance of the shop and wanted it to look sparkling clean.
We also realized that the people who fitted the tiles in the 1930s may have made a mistake when positioning the dot after ‘P’ and after ‘Galkoff’, placing the tile upside down (fig.8)! To keep true to the original, we had to copy their mistake on our mounts.
Figure 8: Galkoff shop re-displayed at the museum before the official opening.
With special thanks to:
The Conservation work was carried out by Lynne Edge ACR and the team at Edge Conservation and Restoration Services. Mount-making and installation was carried out by David Whitty, Peter Edge and the team at Museum Exhibition Services UK Ltd. Cunningham Brown Ltd. were the construction contractors for the work carried out on the Galkoff building. Anna Dembicka took part in the conservation and mounting process as part of a 6-month Heritage Lottery funded Icon ceramics internship at Edge Conservation.
Figure 1 © Edge Conservation
Figures 2 to 8 © Anna Dembicka