PARIS, BERLIN, LONDON
A TALE OF THREE CITIES By Julia Jouet
A personal blog post
Hall Conservation regularly welcomes students and apprentices from across the UK and beyond. Currently with us is Julia Jouet, a French student in conservation and restoration of metal heritage at the National Institute of Heritage in Paris. Here she writes about her personal journey into the field of restoration.
I first realised I wanted to work in the field of conservation and restoration at the end of high school. I was doing a bachelor’s degree, with a mathematical specialty and Chinese option but I had always been very drawn to literature, art and languages. I was looking through a careers magazine when I came across an article on conservators and museum curators. It really caught my attention and I started to look around for more information on these jobs.
I checked out websites of companies and associations for anything to do with conservation and restoration and read as much as I could. I was able to get in contact with a glass and ceramic restorer whose workshop was close to my home in Rennes. She was very kind and happy to talk and invited me to visit her workshop one afternoon. We spent a good few hours discussing the conservator-restorer’s practice, ethics, techniques, and the different objects she was working on at the time.
For me this was a really important meeting, probably a life-changing meeting. Having spoken to her and spent time in her practice I came away knowing that this was the field that I wanted to make a career in. It was an exciting feeling, but I didn’t know how to make it a reality.
Now that I knew what I wanted to do, decided to take the entrance exams of Dep’Art preparatory school, which is a school specializing in the preparation for entrance examinations for several schools of art and heritage restoration. I got the marks I needed and soon began my first year at the National Institute of Heritage in Paris.
The National Institute of Heritage is a higher education institution of the Ministry of Culture. The studies are theoretical, scientific and practical. They take place over five years leading to a diploma of heritage conservator. With this diploma it’s possible to work on the collections of the Museums of France.
The National Institute of Heritage has several specialties: metals, ceramic, enamel, glass, graphic arts and books, textile arts, furniture, painting, photography, and sculpture. I chose to specialize in metal because of its many properties and the variety of metals. I am currently in my fourth year of study and I have not regretted my choice for a moment. I’ve obtained a wide breath of knowledge across the theoretical and the practical.
My fourth year is split between six months of study and six months of internship abroad. To add a bit more variety, I decided to divide my internship into two parts: the first three months in Berlin, at the Museum of German History; and the second three months in London, working as an intern here at Hall Conservation Limited.
Dividing the time in half, gives me the opportunity to experiment and compare two professional restoration contexts. I am most used to working in a museum situation, but even so I found that the practices and procedures varied quite considerably between different countries.
My first internship in Berlin was an opportunity to meet metal heritage conservators who specialize in the fields of armory and technical and scientific objects. Working with them, I learned how to write reports in the style and format required by the museum.
I was able to carry out many different conservation-restoration interventions including cleaning, corrosion removal, consolidation, protection, manufacturing of missing parts. The objects I worked on were as diverse as: weapons (crossbows), everyday objects (purses, signs), and technical objects (motorcycles). This internship was also an opportunity to participate in setting up a temporary exhibition about the Weimar Republic as well as the production of reports for loans to outside museums.
The internship was really valuable because it really showed me how a museum actually works. It showed me everything from how restorers fitted into the overall picture, to how to organize an entire exhibition, to being on the cutting edge of new discoveries and new restoration treatments.
I chose to do the second part of my internship at Hall Conservation because I wanted to see what it was like to be part of a private company working in the restoration field. I’m looking forward to seeing first hand how restoration practices in England might be different from those in France and Germany. I particularly would like to have the chance to work on an area of metal heritage that I haven’t ever worked on before – the monumental. I chose Hall Conservation because of its reputation for care and skill and I hope to get to understand how the company works and what everyone’s different roles are.
It will be an opportunity to discover practices that are new to me such as the treatment of large objects, the treatment of objects exhibited outdoors, the dismantling and installation of large structures. There are so many subjects on which I still have little practical experience, but I really want to learn. I’m already enjoying my time at Hall Conservation and look forward to what the next few months will bring. I plan to write another blog detailing my adventures in English restoration about halfway through my placing, so you’ll hear from me then.
I’m excited for what the future holds!