Collections Care Surgery

Beaker - object from Strathnaver Museum with volunteer holding

31 October, 2023 @ 10:00 am 3:00 pm

Do you have any niggling worries about your collection? Has something changed and you’re not sure if it’s a problem? Received a new object and wondering how to care for it? Planning a new exhibition or changing things in your store? Whatever your questions or thoughts, we invite you to join us for a collections care get-together! In the morning Jeanette Pearson, Conservation Officer at High Life Highland, will lead a session focusing on physical objects in our collections. In the afternoon Richard Aitken, Senior Conservator with Highlife Highland, will lead a session focusing on paper and archival materials.

Who should attend?

This session is suitable for anyone, paid or volunteer, who works with a museum collection.

What will you learn?

Jeanette Pearson will host a session in the morning (10am – 12pm) on object care and conversation. The session will:

  • Provide some examples and information on the types of conservation issues that she has experienced that are common to most museum collections.
    Aim to highlight and discuss the possible solutions and treatments.
    Discuss the practicality of treatment and collections care and pose a few important questions that you should always consider.
    Provide some practical advice on care of objects brought in by partcipants (please email in advance if you would like to bring along a specific object)

Richard Aitken will lead a session in the afternoon (1pm – 3pm) on the care of paper and archival materials. The session will:

  • Provide some examples regarding handling documents, with some practical experience.
    Carry out a cleaning workshop, using conservation cleaning products.
    Show various forms of packaging ideas for documents, books & photographs.
    Examples and discussion on how to deal with insects.
    Provide some practical advice on care of objects brought in by participants. (please email in advance if you would like to bring along a specific object)

About the trainers:

Jeanette Pearson ACR Conservation Officer, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery and The Highland Folk Museum.
‘My specialisation and training is in Archaeological Conservation, but I have always worked as a museum objects conservator providing conservation treatment and collections care for a range of materials and objects ranging from archaeology, natural sciences, decorative arts and social history. A lot of my work involves active treatments assessing and stabilising newly acquired material as well as preventive conservation, which involves managing and monitoring the environmental, biological and physical factors that will influence the stability of collections in store and on display.’
Richard Aitken ACR, Senior Conservator, High Life Highland Archive Service

‘My training began with bookbinding, studying Fine Bookbinding and Conservation at Guildford College. I went on to study archive conservation on the Archives & Records Association (ARA) Certificate in Archive Conservation, whilst working at West Yorkshire Archives in Wakefield. I began working for the Highland Archive Service in 2009. In 2010 I was awarded accreditation status, became an instructor on the ARA Conservation Training Scheme on map & plan conservation and in 2013 I completed a Masters in Preventive Conservation with Northumbria University. I thoroughly enjoy my job at the Highland Archive Service helping look after an extensive collection covering the whole of the Highland region.’

How to book

The workshop will take place at the Highland Archive Centre and you can book your tickets here –

Bring your own lunch! Tea, coffee and biscuits provided!

Reflecting on Highland Threads

Reflecting on Highland Threads

Catriona Davidson, curator at Glencoe Folk Museum, writes about being part of the Museums and Heritage Highland Network and getting involved in the Highland Threads Exhibition.

Being part of Museums and Heritage Highland has been fantastic for Glencoe Folk Museum. As a small museum with only one full-time member of staff (myself, though the past couple of years we have employed a Redevelopment Manager), having access to the resources, expertise and advise of staff across a range of Highland museums has been invaluable. 

Highland Threads is a great example of how MHH has helped smaller museums. We chose to put forward our 18th Century Spitalfields Silks dress for the exhibition, partly because it is the most beautiful item of costume in our collection and partly because it required more work than can be done with just one member of staff. The dress has been on an inappropriate and unsuitable mannequin for years: it was the wrong shape for the style and was putting strain on the already damaged silk. Previous attempts to remove or improve the dress led us to the conclusion that once it was removed from its current mannequin it would not be going back on, and we didn’t want to handle the fragile material more than once. That meant that before we did anything we needed a suitable replacement mannequin, the assistance of a conservator to direct us in how to handle the dress and to make a condition assessment while it was loose, the input of someone who could tell us how the dress would have been worn so that we could fashion the mannequin appropriately, plus funding for all of the above! So, when Highland Threads came along, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to achieve something that we had been working towards for years, while also getting to contribute to a fantastic collaborative project. 

Another unexpected bonus for us was that we discovered more about the history of our dress. This dress has very little provenance other than that the silk was woven probably in Spitalfields in 1740, and it was being used as a dressing up costume (and was put in the washing machine!) before being donated to the museum in the 1970s. However when MHH took on the services of Rebecca Olds, a Dress Historian with particular expertise in 18th Century costume, she was able to read the history of the dress in its stitches, tucks and threads, painting a detailed picture of a well-loved gown that was passed down through different generations and fashions. It is so much more than we ever expected when we joined this project, and certainly much more than we would have likely achieved by ourselves.   

Seeing our dress up on the website alongside beautiful, intricate and fascinating items from other museums makes us really feel like part of a Highland museum community, and we’re so grateful to MHH for creating opportunities like this for small museums. 

You can visit to see the full exhibition and support Highland Museums.