SS Great Britain On 2007 Conservation Awards Shortlist

By Rose Shillito | 05 June 2007
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Photo of a ship from portside stern

Brunel's resplendent and newly restored ss Great Britain in Bristol's dry dock. © Mandy Reynolds

The eagerly awaited shortlists for the 2007 Conservation 'Oscars', the UK’s premier awards for the preservation of cultural heritage, have been announced.

The prestigious Conservation Awards, which are supported by Sir Paul McCartney, have been celebrating excellence in conservation, collections care, digital preservation and conservation research and innovation since they were launched in the early 1990s.

This year, three exceptional and very different projects will compete to win the most coveted prize: the Award for Conservation of £15,000, one of five Awards on offer.

Brunel’s masterpiece, the is a frontrunner. The world’s first screw-propelled, iron-built passenger liner was rescued from the Falklands in 1970 and brought back to her birthplace in Bristol’s Great Western dockyard. She has been transformed by innovative conservation research and technology, and is now a spectacular and much-loved visitor attraction.

Photo of a ship resting on a glass platform

The conservation of ss Great Britain was an "imaginative approach, based on solid scientific research". © Mandy Reynolds

Another strong contender for the prize is an exquisite 400-year-old silk doublet that has been meticulously conserved by The Scottish Conservation Studio and displayed in Perth Museum for the first time, together with a replica for visitors to try on and a pair of matching breeches.

This 17th-century Scottish treasure is believed to have come originally from the Stewarts, the highland clan who fought at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 on behalf of the Jacobites, and is considered to be of national importance.

The McBain Menzies family donated the doublet to the Museum in 2003 after having discovered it in their attic. When this remarkable garment was carried into Perth Museum, the textile curator was lost for words. Few garments of such fine quality, and with such colourful stories to tell, have survived the centuries.

Tuula Pardoe, Accredited Conservator of Costume and Textiles, and a partner in The Scottish Conservation Studio, has worked on historic textiles for museums all over Scotland for 15 years. She said: “It was an once-in-a-lifetime privilege to conserve the 400-year-old doublet. I am absolutely delighted the project has made it to the shortlist for the Conservation Awards.”

Detail photo of carpet design featuring a man's face

Mask image from the magnificent 16th-century embroidered Tobit table carpet on show at Hardwick Hall. Courtesy National Trust

Or could the National Trust’s splendid 16th-century Tobit table carpet scoop the prize? This magnificent embroidered table cover was made for Bess of Hardwick in 1579 and has been lovingly reconstructed over a period of nearly 18 years by the National Trust’s team of textile conservators.

The table carpet is effectively a tablecloth decorated with exquisite needlework in coloured silk floss, which originally covered the entire linen ground. At its centre are the arms of Bess of Hardwick, the date 1579, and the entwined initials of Shrewsbury, Cavendish and Talbot, the whole a celebration of her wealth and status.

Earlier defective restorations had to be removed before the carpet could be restored to its former size and original glorious design, and it is now on show at Hardwick Hall, near Chesterfield.

Photo shows woman standing next to large tapestry hanging on wall behind her

The principal conservator Ksynia Marko with her labour of love, the Tobit table carpet. Courtesy National Trust

Ksynia Marko, head of the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio at Blickling Hall, said: “I began my journey with the table carpet nearly 18 years ago. The work was a challenge beyond methodology and technicality that became a love affair. Throughout its 400-year life others have also loved it and done their best to, ‘protect it from all manner of wet, moth and other hurt’, as Bess had requested in her will.”

The Awards are supported the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), English Heritage, the Institute of Conservation (Icon), the National Preservation Office, the Digital Preservation Coalition and the Anna Plowden Trust.This year’s winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the British Library on September 27 2007.

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