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The University of Southampton

Conference focuses on conserving modern materials for future generations

Published: 20 June 2005

Popular TV puppets from the 1960s and 1970s such as Bagpuss, Larry the Lamb and Tog from Pogles' Wood will survive in a good condition for future generations to enjoy following research by textile experts into the best way to conserve the modern materials they are made of.

The researchers' findings form part of the programme at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Centre for Textile Conservation and Textile Studies' second annual conference to be held between 26 and 28 July. The conference, entitled 'The future of the 20th century: collecting, interpreting and conserving modern materials', will explore how to preserve modern materials, that include plastics such as nylon, acrylics and polypropylene.

Cordelia Rogerson, the conference organiser, comments: "Modern materials are the basis of our contemporary material world and they are all around us, whether as everyday objects or as art. We need to develop ways of conserving these materials to ensure that they live on into the future. This conference aims to bring together a diverse range of people, expertise and interests that should spark some interesting debate and we hope to help develop strategies to ensure that evidence of today's world survives for future generations."

The television puppet research project provided valuable information about the long-term care and possible conservation and restoration of objects made from modern materials. The puppets were created with materials such as polyurethane foam, and polyester fur fabric with acrylic pile. Similar items are displayed in museums around the country where storage conditions, lighting, temperature and humidity can affect the condition and lifespan of the materials. The research project used scientific analysis, including x-rays and light ageing tests, to identify how and why the physical properties of the puppets were affected by aging and their surroundings. As a result, researchers have been able to advise museums and private owners how best to store and display the puppets.

Other conference sessions will cover a wide range of issues relating to modern textile conservation. Mary Brooks and Leo Dokos of the Textile Conservation Centre will present their findings about 'smart' and techno fabrics. Experts from the National Museum of Denmark will explain how freezing materials can help to preserve them, while conservators from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia will talk about modern textile conservation in practice at the Museum. One of several case studies in the programme highlights the problems faced in Hong Kong in conserving a heavily sequinned Cantonese Opera stage curtain.

The AHRC Research Centre is part of the Textile Conservation Centre at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. The conference takes place at the Textile Conservation Centre in Winchester. More details about the conference, including the full programme can obtained from the AHRC Research Centre for Textile conservation & Textile Studies Annual Conference web site.

Notes for editors

  1. For full details of the conference programme, visit the AHRC Research Centre for Textile conservation & Textile Studies web site.
  2. A digital image of conservation work on Tog is available from Media Relations on request.
  3. The AHRC Research Centre for Textile Conservation and Textile Studies was established in July 2002, thanks to a major award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) between 2002 - 2007. The Research Centre's aim is to improve the care and interpretation of historic textiles by enhancing knowledge and understanding of textiles and textile conservation. The Centre is based at the Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton's Winchester School of Art. The TCC's partners in this prestigious initiative are the University of Bradford (Department of Environmental & Archaeological Sciences) and the University of Manchester (School of Art History and Archaeology and the Whitworth Art Gallery).
  4. The Textile Conservation Centre is a leading international centre for the education of textile conservators and for research into textile conservation. Founded in 1975, the Centre merged with the University of Southampton in August 1998: the Centre is now part of Winchester School of Art within the University's Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences. The Centre is unique in combining conservation consultancy, professional training and research.
  5. The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please see the website:
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