A New Start with a New Placement

on Tuesday, 23 November 2021. Posted in Conservation, History Centre

Hiya! I’m Sejal and I’m a trainee conservator doing my placement with the Wiltshire Conservation and Museum Advisory Service. I’m excited to start my professional work here and I am looking forward to some amazing projects.

A woman with red hair wearing a face covering stands next to a museum cabinet with 4 skulls and two knapped tools
Showing off my last big project; some anatomical skull models for the Durham Museum of Archaeology

My placement is part of my master’s degree in object conservation at Durham University. My background is primarily based in archaeology and I’ve been on several excavations, but I’ve always gravitated more towards lab work than field work. For my undergraduate dissertation, I spent a month in Portugal, helping sort through discarded ceramics from a seventeenth century kiln. It was like trying to put 100 jigsaw puzzles together at once, but you only have about 75% of the pieces.

A table covered with pottery bowls and plates, some mostly incomplete all with fragments taped together
A nearly complete set of 18th century tablewares from a kiln waste site in Portugal

I’m originally from the United States and have spent the last four years up north for my studies, so I haven’t spent much time in the southwest of the UK. So, I’m very excited to explore the region and the rich prehistory and history it holds. I also hope to visit a lot of local museums and work with a variety of institutions whilst I’m here.

So far, I primarily specialise in conserving inorganic materials, particularly ceramics and metals. I’ve even worked on a seventeenth century civil war helmet. But I hope that this placement will allow me to gain wider experiences that I can bring into my future as a conservator. I am excited to work with organic based objects, like historical wood and leather, as well as composite objects, which demonstrate multiple materials at once. I’m also keen to work with Sophie in the archives lab, gaining experience in paper conservation that I can hopefully combine with my skills in object conservation.

A women is carefully hold a cleaning tool working on a metal helmet; a woman is applying a substance to the back of a large sheet on the table with a coloured map mounted to the wall behind her.
Left: A nearly complete set of 18th century tablewares from a kiln waste site in Portugal Right: Starting my new placement here at CMAS with wall mounting a map from 1900 for lining and infilling (photo by Sophie Coles)

I’m also interested in comparing the commercial and public sides of conservation to that of higher education and theoretical work. I think it is important that conservators recognise that there needs to be a compromise between the ideals of the field and the realities of the practice, particularly when it comes to smaller institutions. I hope that I can be a part of some outreach programs in order to promote the field, as well as ensure that it remains an accessible science, for the good of all objects and collections!

Sejal Goel

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