Back to uni! This week has been the beginning of Treatment and Assessment 1 — which translated back into English means my first course in actually treating an object. I waited with bated breath, sending endless hints to the lecturers about how I wanted to work on something archaeological or at least a ceramic.
Monday morning we had an induction lecture but none of us could really pay attention. The trepidation was palpable and we all rushed to the labs after the lecture to be introduced to our paintings, papers and objects. The paintings & paper people are in the basement, whereas us object-conservators get to have the light and airy upstairs labs, so we knew the objects had to be somewhere up there… it felt a bit like sneaky Christmas present hunting. I didn’t spot them straight away but one of the other girls did and pointed out…
…anatomical models. Of teeth.
The disappointment was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that last year’s Treatment 1 had been dentures, which had prepared me for a let-down. It’s unlikely for us to get to treat anything very exciting, as it’s literally the first time for many of us that we get to put our hands on a museum object for cleaning and repairs.
Catherine whispered to me that she saw some of the teeth were koala teeth. This immediately cheered me somewhat, and I even wondered if I might get a wombat tooth (I have a weakness for wombats).
In the end I was given a koala molar and I immediately felt it was special. For some reason, everyone else got either one large tooth, or two small ones, but because mine was quite damaged, I only got one, which is fine by me as I have to cram 3 weeks of study into 2 weeks so I can get back to work.
Here’s my molar as it was the day I received it:
It’s like my own ugly baby. Everyone else thinks it’s so hideous, and people from outside the course who I share pictures with struggle to find anything to say at all. I however love it very much.
The second day, we learned about dry cleaning methods, followed by wet cleaning. Dry cleaning in conservation is not like dry cleaning for clothes which uses solvents — the use of solvents for cleaning falls under wet cleaning, of course.
I then came in on Wednesday to clean my tooth. Dry cleaning took around 3 hours of rubbing and rubbing and rubbing the surface of the model with a variety of materials… it was really slow progress, and I look forward to having podcasts to listen to as I work as there’s not much to it except constantly switching angles to try and avoid back/wrist pain. I took so many progress shots, as it takes so long to erase a scuff mark that you start going crazy thinking that it’s having no effect at all. Amusingly at one point I got up and walked away in frustration as I couldn’t seem to make any progress… only to come back and not be able to find the scuff mark I’d been working on, so obviously I’d been doing ok.
My wet cleaning was fairly limited. We did a lot of study on how to select suitable cleaning solutions during conservation chemistry last semester — you ideally want to match the polarity, pH and conductivity of the surface you treat, so that you’re only removing the dirt and not affecting the materials below. With all that in mind… I used a cotton swab slightly dampened with deionised water. Thrilling, I know.
Next step on Monday is consolidating the fracture and filling in all those chips. Last step will be in-painting — matching the different colours and then painting over my fillings.