The beginning of the end started with my presentation on Monday. Twenty minutes was not long enough to summarise what a fantastic time I have had here. Not only did it allow me to present all my projects to students wishing to apply for the award, it also gave me opportunity to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has made my time here so unforgettable.
After that I was taken out for lunch by the cultural collections team (Helen, Jason, Susie, and Kerrianne) which was a wonderful treat and a great way to conclude my time there. The afternoon followed a surge of work to try and get my outreach project completed in time for this Sunday (it’s almost there!).
Tuesday was my one day placement at the university herbarium. The collection there is superb and still held in the 1920s custom built cabinets. There are over 100,000 specimens of all major plant groups (fungi, mosses, liverworts, lichens, algae, ferns, gymnosperms and flowering plants). Some of the collection dates back to the 1850s and it also holds type specimens. Type specimens is a specimen selected to serve as a reference point when a plant species is first named and is very important in the world of botany. My job was similar to my task at archives – to get part of the collection, reorganise the material, upgrade its storage to archive grade material, and do a stock check as I go! I worked on a tiny portion of the red algae collection which hadn’t been updated in many years so it felt like I was making a huge difference! When the process had ended, they were all wrapped up like a present, ready to be put back on the shelf.
Upgrading the specimens and the finished product!
It was my first experience in a collection of this nature and it was fascinating to hear about the unique challenges this collection faces. For instance, are multiples of one specimen needed? How do you allow access to ‘living’ material? How to manage a collection that could be devastated by a foreign contaminant? How do you archive it so that it is easy to access (for instance, there can be several examples of a laurencia nidifica, all the same species but not duplicates). I hope future award winners get to experience this aspect of the collection. It was fascinating and Gillian (Herbarium curator) was lovely and answered all my questions with patience and clarity!
Wednesday was my wrap up day with prints. Kerrianne took me for my final cake and coffee at Brunetti’s (I chose a strawberry tart, delicious!). On the final day of research I uncovered two extra Blake facsimiles from by Nonesuch press to add to my blog about the Trianon press facsimiles. It is still in the process of being written, but as soon as it’s finished I’ll do a feature blog on here regarding my time working with that collection. Until then I’ll give you a sneak peak of my Blake photo shoot. Vogue magazine are using it as next seasons cover.
Then onto my final day at CCMC. I ended as I began, with paper repair and consolidation! This time it was using a different method. Instead of the heat activated adhesive paper and an iron, I used methyl cellulose and dyed Japanese paper to reinforce some heavily damaged material from the university’s East Asian Collection. It was a really satisfying task to finish on, as I could see the effects of conservation immediately. Due to it being so fragile, the paper strengthened considerably post treatment and was a lot easier (and less frightening!) to handle.
The girls there took me for a farewell lunch as well (I’ve been treated a lot to free meals this week!) and it was a lovely chance to say goodbye and express my thanks for having me. They insisted I should pop back in whenever I’m in Melbourne to see the team and I fully intend to!
Looking back I can’t believe how much I’ve done, how much I’ve changed, and how quickly the time has passed. Reflecting my experiences now as I wait for my plane all I can think about is getting back to Birmingham to spread the word. If you can apply for this award, then do it. It will be one of the best things you will ever do!
Now, although my four weeks have been written and my time has come to an end, keep an eye on this blog! I’ve still got my Blake blog to put up, an advice blog for students considering the award, a weekend round-up, and a reflections blog when I’ve returned home.