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02.12.2019

Tru Vue Blog: Icon19, an opportunity for reflection, reassurance and honesty

Professor Eleanor Schofield is Head of Conservation & Collections Care at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth. She recieved an Icon Tru Vue CPD grant early this year to take her to Belfast for #Icon19. Read on to hear about her key highlights from the proceedings.

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In June this year I had the pleasure of attending my first every Icon triennial conference. After training to be a Materials Scientist, I worked on various projects before eventually getting involved in the conservation of the Mary Rose, nearly ten years ago. In general my role is to care for the collection, and part of that involves drawing on my experience as a materials scientist to use scientific techniques to understand how the materials in our collection are degrading and to make new materials to effectively stabilise them.

I applied to give a talk based on some new conservation treatments I have been developing with the University of Sheffield. These things always start with a proof of concept in the laboratory, but it is crucial that once this phase finishes we spend the time interrogating the treatments to develop them into viable treatments in the heritage sector. Presenting at Icon gave  the perfect opportunity to talk about where we had got to, challenges faced and envisaged and get feedback from practitioners of what they thought about the treatment.

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Eleanor Schofield presenting her keynote lecture at #Icon19

Alongside this talk it was an absolute honour (and slightly daunting!) to be asked to give a Keynote lecture at the start of the conference. I used this opportunity to really reflect on all the ways that we have used science and engineering to overcome certain challenges during conservation of the Mary Rose.  There was a fair dose of honesty in there too, in terms of what would happen in a perfect world and what did happen given the circumstances and resource available. I heard later the audience really appreciated that, and if my talk gave anyone a little peace of mind, then to me that is a good job done!

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Anita Quye presenting the HSG’s ethical sampling guidelines 

I also was pleased to see my collaborator Anita Quye present the Heritage Science Group’s recently developed ethical sampling guidelines. During discussion we realised this was something that was necessary, but that we all often felt unsure or uncomfortable about, questioning whether we were always doing it ‘in the right way’. What lead from this was a questionnaire and workshop which then informed our guidelines which can be found on the Icon website. Anita talked through the whole thought process behind the idea, and the aspects that fed into the resulting guidelines.

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Lianne Jordan presenting her PhD work in the HSG session 

Last of all I was very proud to see student Lianne Jordan from the University of Sheffield, present her research looking at degradation mechanisms in a variety of Mary Rose materials. From sail cloth to anchor cable to leather to wool – it still blows my mind that these items exist after over 400 years buried under the seabed, let alone that we can use science to learn such details about them. I can’t want to see what we find out next!

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The latest round of Tru Vue funding is now open to applicants, please visit the Icon Grants pages for further information. 

Lead image: Creative commons
Image 1: Leanne Tonkin
Images 2 and 
3, Eleanor Schofield

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