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29 May 2018

Conservation skills for the future: a meaningful legacy

Written by Charlotte Tomlin
Charlotte Tomlin
Every year the Trust hosts an internship for an emerging conservator to increase their skills and knowledge. They can build on their experience of working in the heritage industry in order to better prepare them for their future career.

This opportunity is only possible with the generous support of the Bute Memorial Fund – a fund set up by the Trust in 1993 on the death of John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute.

John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute
John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute

John Crichton-Stuart was a great patron of heritage and the arts in Scotland. As well as owning many historic buildings and a world-renowned art collection, he contributed a great deal to many heritage organisations such as the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland and of course the National Trust for Scotland. He spent 25 years with the Trust as Chairman, Vice-President and later President; it was because of this close connection that the Trust launched an appeal on Lord Bute’s death to found the Marquess of Bute Memorial Fund. The income of this fund was to be used as an annual award called the ‘John Bute Award for Conservation’. Grants would be given at the discretion of the Trustees to assist young people to develop skills in the field of conservation while working in association with the National Trust for Scotland. Lord Bute’s legacy would be to train a whole new generation of conservators in Scotland.

The first three Bute internships focused on the interventive conservation of paintings and paper and were held in conjunction with private conservation studios and fellow heritage institutions in Scotland. The six more recent Bute internships have focused on preventive conservation and worked primarily in-house in the Trust’s conservation department. Whilst interventive conservation focuses on the practical treatment of historic objects, preventive conservation aims to slow down deterioration of objects by manipulating the surrounding environment and monitoring changes. Whether interventive or preventive, the internship has always given the intern the opportunity to learn from highly experienced professional accredited conservators.

Since 2008 the internship has also been supported by Icon, the Institute of Conservation. This professional body regulates the standard of the internship and acts as an independent support network for both the intern and the hosting institution to solve any problems that may arise. Regular reports have to be submitted to Icon by the intern and their supervisor, and regular meetings are held with an Icon advisor. The partnership with Icon also allows the Trust intern to network with other Icon interns across the country to share advice and experiences.

Charlotte Tomlin, Bute/Icon Preventive Conservation Intern 2017/18
Charlotte Tomlin, Bute/Icon Preventive Conservation Intern 2017/18

As the ninth Bute Intern I am eternally grateful to the legacy of Lord Bute. The Bute Memorial Fund has financed my internship with the Trust and provided me with an extra allowance to fund training and travel opportunities. I am currently eight months into my year-long internship and feel much more confident in my conservation skills and expertise due to the wide range of training and experience that I have gained as an intern.