London Metropolitan Archives receives regular requests from individuals and groups which want to visit to discover more about the Great Parchment Book project. These include archivists, conservators and other heritage professionals, and academics and students, especially those interested in digital humanities, from across the world.
A visitor from Down Under
In April, LMA welcomed Kit Kugatoff, Director, Collections and Access at Queensland State Archives who was keen to visit to discuss our approaches to digitisation and technology assisted conservation with particular reference to the Great Parchment Book project. During her visit Philippa Smith, Head of Collections and Caroline De Stefani, Conservation Studio Manager were delighted to show Kit some original folios of the Great Parchment Book and discuss other ways in which we see technology assisting conservators to make accessible to researchers the information locked in damaged documents. Laurence Ward, Head of Digital Services also talked to Kit about LMA’s digitisation programmes and showed her the Digital Services Suite. As always we found that we shared lots of experiences and issues and it was beneficial to exchange knowledge and ideas with a professional colleague from the other side of the world.
Exploring technology and heritage in London
In June LMA was pleased to host a group of students from Michigan State University in the United States based in London for a month for their “Technology, Humanities, and the Arts in London” programme. The course focussed on how archives, libraries and museums see the relationship between their physical (and digital) materials and the digital interfaces of those materials. The students especially wanted to find out more first hand about the Great Parchment Book project, but also to look at LMA’s regular digitisation processes as well as new developments.
Once again Philippa Smith and Caroline De Stefani talked about the Great Parchment Book project and the students were thrilled to see original folios of the book in a display in the Conservation Studio. Philippa and Caroline also showed the students examples of other documents where technology might not only improve accessibility, but also reveal hidden information about how the items were created and even more about former conservation treatments. LMA is currently working with UCL under the auspices of SEAHA on a project to explore the possibilities presented by multispectral imaging of documentary material. We were delighted to share with the students some of the documents we had been looking at with the doctoral student only a few days before which may provide the raw material for her research. Laurence Ward then showed the students some of the ways in which digitisation is transforming how we work at LMA and took them down to the Digital Services Suite to learn more about our digitisation processes.
This is becoming a regular annual visit and we look forward to welcoming another group of students next year.
Taking a closer look back home
Also in June Caroline met with Gwen Spicer, an art conservator from the United States who was interested very specifically in the technique of using magnets to flatten parchment which we had used in the Great Parchment Book project. Gwen was also intrigued by one of the materials we had used in the project when humidifying parchment – Bondina. She hadn’t come across it in the US and took samples back home so she could take a closer look. Gwen wrote about her visit for her own blog and you read about it here.