A Week of Field Trips- The Bowes Museum

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The next stop for us on our mini bus adventures during the week of field trips was down to The Bowes Museum in Newgate, Durham, England. After an hour and fifteen minute drive south and to the west, we arrived to the large museum and garden. The French Neapolitan style building was purpose built to be a public museum by John Bowes (the illegitimate son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore) and his wife Josephine Chevalier. During their lifetime the couple collected an immense amount of china, silver, jewels, furniture, and pictures ranging from El Greco and Van Dyck to Turner and Toulouse- Lautrec. Unfortunately the museum opened to the public after both died.

The Bowes Museum from the Gardens

The Bowes Museum from the Gardens

The museum features a top quality cafe and encourages frequent and regular visits from those who live around it. There are lots of displays for children to play with and learn from, even including an exhibit on illustrations in a popular childrens book while we were there. The museum has a conservation department and there are displays relating to conservation located through out the museum. Photography of the exhibits is encouraged, as is engaging with social media. Once again we were all on the hunt for environmental management tools in the galleries, as well as noting and enjoying their unique and innovative exhibit design and lighting design. Unfortunately we were there during working on their heating system, so the galleries were a bit cold, but we enjoyed our day there thoroughly!

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The museum is will known for its silver swan automaton (a self-operating machine). Wonderfully the museum runs the swan once a day, every day at 2pm. Many other museums with automata do not work or they do not run them, rather electing to show a video of what it would do if it were run. The French swan ducks its head down into the glass rod river and plucks up a silver fish which it promptly eats. A wonderful display and incredible machinery considering it was made in the late 1700s!

Next up is the Beamish Outdoor Museum!

A Week of Field Trips- Seaton Delaval Hall

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Next stop during our week of field trips was out about 45 minutes to the north and east along the coastline- Seaton Delaval Hall. We were supposed to spend a week working here, however as I mentioned in an earlier post, the schedules just simply didn’t match. Instead we were able to visit on a day the hall is closed to the public. We were given  full run of the property. We were also able to take photos in the no photo areas, though I can’t share those images here in this public forum.

The Stables and Central Hall of Seaton Delaval Hall

The Stables and Central Hall of Seaton Delaval Hall

Built between 1719-1730 for Admiral Delaval, the house is an excellent example of the English Baroque style. The estate features the central hall, stables, servants quarters, gardens, and a Norman Chapel (from the Norman settlement on the property in the 900s). The hall has a remarkable history. In 1822 the central hall suffered a great fire gutting the interior down to a shell and obliterating the roof. The marble floor did survive, though it deeply charred the 6 female statues in the entrance hall. Due to the fire, the family moved into what was previously the servants quarters. After being left open to the elements, the central hall received a new roof in 1862, though the interior hall remained charred and drafty. Due the hall being intermittently lived in, the hall was home to squatters from the late 1860s until the 1940s. During World War II, the hall and stables were conscripted into use by English army as a prison for German soldiers. German graffiti and a notice on how to appropriate roll up their bedding is still visible in the upper portions of the stable. Empty wine bottles remain in the cellar below the central house. After the war, the house was abandoned again until the 1980s when the Baron of Hastings moved into the servants quarters. Due to the disrepair of the buildings and a large inheritance tax, the hall was sold to the National Trust in 2009.

Beginning in 2010, the hall was reopened to the public despite needing major work. During 2013 the servants quarters were completely rewired, brought up to fire code, added a security system, and it was re-roofed to tackle dampness and mold issues. The National Trust (similar to our National Park Service) has been utilizing the property as an opportunity to discuss the need for and sizeable costs of conservation for a property of this type. Conservation work at the property is part of their exhibition schedule and presents a compelling message to visitors. The National Trust and the Hall were recently awarded a £500,000 (approx. $820,000) grant to x-ray and triage conserve the statues in the central hall, clean and reset the black and white marble floors, refit all the central hall windows and doors, as well as to consolidate the external stonework/masonry and the roof. On the day we visited the hall featured a 100% relative humidity and a temperature of 0º C (32º F) indoors! Brr!!! All of this work will help to stabilize the hall, prevent it from raining inside the hall due to humidity, make visitors more comfortable, and most importantly, prevent the building from being condemned. The building will never been returned to its former glory as it would be exorbitantly expensive, as well as decrease the teaching value of the property on the ravages of fire. Plus it would displace the family of bats living in the eaves of the central hall!

Our tour was led by the site manager and a National Trust conservator. Both were frank with us on the many issues and limitations of the property, while also sharing the joys and surprises of working there. The house is VERY responsive to changes in weather- one day the upper colonnade windows may have condensation and mildew, while the downstairs floor is ‘sweating’ salts, only to return the next day and the property is stable with no issues. We were able to tour all parts of the property including the upper level of the stables. This area is not currently open to the public due to safety issues of steep stairs, mold, and grime. It is in the upper level of the stables the soldier graffiti and signs are present. Very cool!

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Next stop, the Bowes Museum in Newgate, Durham, England!

A Week of Field Trips- The Durham Oriental Museum

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(Apologies for a lack of posts, the semester became INSANE and the blog slipped to the way side. New Years Resolution: Update blog on a minimum of a biweekly, preferably weekly, basis. Should be easier this time around as I will be taking pictures in class SO much more! Now, let’s take a trip back in time…)

As the semester began to wrap up, our conservation studies tutor (professor) scheduled our class to work using our new preventative conservation knowledge for a full week at a nearby National Trust historic house property Seaton Delaval. Unfortunately due to scheduling, the week we had available in our schedule did not match up with any projects we could complete for them. As we had a week of mini buses booked, what were we to do to fill our time? Our class decided to fill these extra days with field trips to nearby museums in the North that aren’t easily accessed by public transportation. We filled our days with trips to the Durham Oriental Museum, Seaton Delaval, The Bowes Museum, and the Beamish Outdoor Museum. As the paintings conservation class representative, I served as the trip liaison and helped our tutor book our trips. It was a bit crazy at times, but we had a fun week driving around the northeast with our university driver Ronnie!

First Stop: The Durham Oriental Museum in Durham, England

Interior of Durham Oriental Museum

Interior of Durham Oriental Museum

The Durham Oriental Museum is in conjunction with Durham University. The museum features, you guessed it, archaeological, as well as, contemporary objects from a variety of Asian cultures and civilizations. Despite being a small museum, the collection is extensive and interesting; it spans from ancient Egypt to modern Korea. It is obvious the museum focuses on engaging with children as many didactics were present for them (we may have engaged in these as well…) During our visit, we also were on the look out for their environmental monitoring equipment such as thermometers, hygrometers (measuring relative humidity), security systems, pest monitoring, and the like. We finished out our visit with a quick trip down into Durham to grab lunch at a fish and chippery, as well as to check out some of the charity shops.

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Adventures in the Countryside: Alnwick

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Countryside Surrounding Alnwick

Countryside Surrounding Alnwick (with lots of sheep!)

About once or twice a month a group, Fast Friends, at Northumbria University organizes day trips for students. These trips are particularly geared towards those who are international and may know little about the area surrounding Newcastle. The first trip of the year was to Alnwick (pronounced like Ann-ick). Alnwick is about 40 minutes by bus north of Newcastle. Armed with a bevy of new friends and amazing weather, I set off for a fun day of exploring Alnwick, particularly its gorgeous castle- Alnwick Castle!

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is owned and operated by the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy and his family. The castle is still fully operational and inhabited, so no pictures inside… But their hanging picture collection is amazing! The collection is very extensive in Italian late Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as Northern European city scenes. I’m please to report the paintings looked to be in great condition- freshly cleaned and dusted. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland are obviously committed to conservation! Some may better recognize the castle from its many uses in movies including Elizabeth and, perhaps more importantly, Harry Potter! The building was used for some initial exterior shots of Hogwarts, as well as many of the learning to fly on a broom scenes and early quidditch matches from the first few movies. The field you see above is where Harry first set foot on a broom- of course they offer daily broom lessons as part of your ticket if you wish to partake!

"Why are you in the corner?" Cute little stone statue left in the shadows of the ramparts

“Why are you in the corner?” Cute little stone statue left in the shadows of the ramparts

The castle also features an extensive garden cultivated by the Duchess of Northumberland. I didn’t get the memo that the gardens are awesome until I was leaving (it’s a separate ticket), so I missed seeing them this time. I’m sure I’ll be back since a ticket into the castle is good for a full year. The Percy Family seems really dedicated to engaging and giving back to the local community, not just the 1 stop tourist, which is refreshing to see. They offer lots of changing seasonal programming- ghost tours in the fall and Christmas markets in the winter. There are also a dragon show for children and an exhibit highlighting the recent wedding of one of Lord Percy’s daughters. They even explain the horse carriage conservation carried in preparation for the ceremony. Overall, the exhibits are well done and truly feature something for everyone. I’m looking forward to going back to Alnwick Castle soon!

Adele and I enjoying a shady spot on the castle ramparts
Adele and I enjoying a shady spot on the castle ramparts

 

The rest of the day was spent exploring the town of Alnwick. I had a phenomenal sandwich for less than 2 pounds at a cheesemonger shop tucked on a back alley. Definitely looking for that place again! While in Alnwick, I visited a couple of antique shops/flea market/junk shops looking for a damaged painting to work on in my painting conservation class next semester. While I did see something that would fit the bill, it didn’t feel quite challenging enough for me, so I’m still on the hunt for my damaged painting.

Awesome Dragon Viking Boat Bench in Alnwick

Awesome Dragon Viking Boat Bench in Alnwick

Back in Time to Scotland

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So much has happened and I know I’ve been lax in posting, so I’m hoping to get a few posts out this week. First post is my arrival to the UK, specifically Scotland, on September 2nd. After leaving on September 1st from Cincinnati-> Detroit-> Amsterdam-> Edinburgh, it was time to get the vacation started! I had a wonderful time spending 9 days with my parents driving around Scotland. My dad planned a wonderful vacation and we covered a fair amount of the different areas in Scotland. There are still some things that I didn’t get to see, so I guess that means I will have to take another trip back! Rats 🙂

Rather than write a long post AND post lots of pictures, I’ll offer a selection of pictures I love and I feel capture the trip. Let me know in the comments sections if there is a spot you’d like to hear more about and I’ll write a specific blog post about it!

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Adventures in the Countryside: Tynemouth and Durham, England

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So these are actually 2 separate trips, but in an effort to post more (must spend less time studying and more time posting?…. no, that doesn’t seem quite right), I am rolling this into one fun post! We’ll look at one past day trip, Tynemouth, and one more recent, Durham. Both are within a 30 minute train ride from where I live!

First, lets blast back into time to mid -September and we will find ourselves in Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. Tynemouth is the small seaside town located 20 minutes by metro train (subway) from Newcastle city centre. After seeing a day on weather.com with a high of 65 F and sunny, I decided to run with this chance and head to the beach with a German friend from my building, Tobi! Needless to say, it was a great decision. Getting the chance to run around on the beach, eat fish and chips, and explore two cozy seaside towns on a gorgeous day was wonderful. Definitely a great treat to celebrate a great first week of classes!

Tynemouth Beach

Tynemouth Beach

Tobi exploring seaweed rocks on Tynemouth Beach

Tobi exploring seaweed rocks on Tynemouth Beach

Tynemouth Castle and Priory Ruins

Tynemouth Castle and Priory Ruins

We were able to walk several miles down the coastal road and beaches until we hit Whitley Bay. Whitley Bay is known for having great waves and offers surf lessons  during the summer (dry suit included!). All in all in was a gorgeous day and very relaxing- just what was needed after diving head first into graduate schooling.

Whitley Bay Beach

Whitley Bay Beach

Whitley Bay Beach Rocks- I can't help being obsessed with gorgeous colorful rocks!

Whitley Bay Beach Rocks- I can’t help being obsessed with gorgeous colorful rocks!

Recently, I took a trip with my classmate Brook to Durham for the afternoon. After a quick 15 minute train ride south, we arrived in the small town of Durham. Built onto a peninsula jutting into the river Wear, the town is well known for its medieval cathedral and university.

Durham as seen from Train Station

Durham as seen from Train Station

After walking down into town, across the river, and up through town, we arrived upon the cathedral and the university. Being the art history lovers that we are, we opted to go on a guided tour of the cathedral. It was totally worth it! Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and I secretly want him to be my English grandfather- he was that adorable. Certainly worth the £5, especially since the cathedral does not change an entry fee. They simply ask that you donate generously so they can continue to run the cathedral and it’s services in the shape it deserves to be in after 918 years of use!

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Built in a quick 40 years from 1055-1095, the cathedral serves as a resting place for St. Cuthbert, as well as Bede. St. Cuthbert was a very successful monk and prior at Lindisfarne Monastery (pre-viking raids). The monks moved his body here to be safe from the early viking raids in the north of England and Scotland. Bede is known for his theories on the world being round long before all of those European explorers we learned about in grade school. The cathedral also served as a place of sanctuary for those running from the law. Watching 24 hours a day 365 days a year, 2 monks watched for those running across the palace green requesting sanctuary. The monks housed, clothed, and fed these individuals for 37 days. At the end of that time, the individual had to either face justice or be shipped off on the next boat leaving the country. Pretty intense eh? Apparently the monks only had 4-7 cases of sanctuary every year. That is a lot of down time to wait for someone to possibly show up- perhaps this is how monopoly was invented? It does take a long time to play after all… I kid, I kid…

Sanctuary Door Knocker

Sanctuary Door Knocker

It’s amazing to think 40 summers of building resulted in this beautiful Romanesque style building that still houses services every day and acts as a community gathering place. The central cloisters acted as a location in the first Harry Potter movie. Anyone else remember Professor Snape running into Harry and Ron walking along these corridors?

I can totally see Snape whirling around the Corner any minute now

I can totally see Snape whirling around the Corner any minute now

Our guide also pointed out that George Washington’s family was from the Durham area and their coat of arms is featured in the cloister of the cathedral. Supposedly, according to the guide, the stars and stripes motif in the American flag came from the Washington Family crest. Not the story I had learned in school, but an interesting idea nonetheless.

Washington Family Connections and Crest

Washington Family Connections and Crest

Brook looking into the Durham Cathedral Cloister Courtyard

Brook looking into the Durham Cathedral Cloister Courtyard

All in all, both trips were lovely and provided necessary relaxation! Up next will be a post about classes as we are going field trip crazy in the next two weeks!

Wow, It’s Been a Whirlwind!

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I’m writing this post sitting in my new home for the next year. It’s hard to believe I have been in Newcastle upon Tyne for almost 2 weeks now. To catch up I am planning a couple of back posts about moving and my vacation in Scotland. But, for now I’ll offer what I have been up to for the past week!

It has been induction week at Northumbria University. Induction Week simultaneously happens at the same time as Freshers Week. Freshers week is a series of parties, pub crawls, dances, and fairs to welcome to first years to the uni (university). Insanity all week basically. Still trying to get over the fact that there are 3 pubs and a club in the student union….So different than American University! Induction week is also geared towards first year students (both undergraduate and graduate, though more the former). The typical lectures given at orientation in the US are offered during this week within each department, as well as some basic syllabus talks. Students also meet with their program once during the week. It’s a combination of orientation and a syllabus week in the US. I will admit the English seem less inclined to give specifics and helpful tips during this time like you would receive at orientation, so most of us international students still feel pretty lost. But we are making do! Fortunately there are so many people who are excited to have international students (particularly Americans), so many people have been very helpful and friendly. This is making the process a bit less painful since much of the IT has not been working for me!

My building has been offering events every night this week, so it has been a great way to meet people and get out of my studio. They have taken us out for Sunday Roast, clubs, and pubs, as well as pizza and quiz nights in. I’ve made friends with a few of the older students in my building (most are 1st or 2nd years.. they’re 17 and pretty young- living on their own for the first time. I can’t blame them; It’ll be fun to watch them grow this year.) So far my friends from my building and my course are ranging from across the world: Germany, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, Norway, Nigeria, Singapore, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Wales, and England. It’s been a bit harder to meet English students as the international programs keep us away from them and my program has very few UK students. I’m hoping to befriend more locals in the next few months, but so far so good. Last night I joined my friend Tom, a British Army cadet studying Mechanical Engineering at Northumbria, and his English friends for a pub quiz at our local pub. I was one of few women in there and the only American- pretty wild, but it finally felt like I was getting outside of the ‘international student bubble.’ Here’s to more of those nights!

Time for some fun out on the town tonight and the beach on Sunday since it is supposed to be 75F and sunny! **knock on wood**

T- Minus 1 Day

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…..well *gulp* tomorrow (which is an hour away here on EST) is my last full day in the United States until December… wow! Where has the time gone?!?! Oh wait, I know! It’s been a busy August filled with packing and unpacking and packing, as well as trips and my best friend visiting me. Oddly I want a few more days here to relax, but at the same time I just want to go so that I can stop feeling like I’m living out of a suitcase. I get my wish on Sunday when my parents and I leave the house!

The trip to Mackinac Island and the UP(Upper Peninsula of Michigan) with my parents and a special guest appearance by my grandmother was a wonderful treat. My family has vacationed on Mackinac Island since before I was born and there is hardly a summer I can remember without going there for a weekend. It is a truly magical place with transportation by horse and buggy, bicycle, or by foot. It is so calm, the air is clear, and it is generally cool. Wonderful! This trip we stayed at The Grand Hotel for the first time. So swanky! It is truly a magical place and I’ll admit it has a big soft spot within my heart now.

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After a few days on Mackinac Island we ventured over to Naubin Way and Newberry in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It was…remote to say the least. No cell phone or internet service really for a couple of days. Nice to unplug, but disconcerting at times when trying to coordinate school things via email. Very few people and lots of gorgeous wildlife and water as far as the eye can see. These rocks caught my eye and I simply had to share…

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ImageThe bulk of my time back has been spent sorting an even smaller amount of my belongings to figure out what I am taking to the UK. Needless to say, it’s not much. I have my two 50 lb suitcases and I’m stealing a small amount of poundage from my parents. It’s not all clothes I promise! I know I have a very small closet there, so I’m packing pretty much only fall and winter clothes. What is killing me is the books I am taking over for my classes. They are killer! I’ll be swapping some books out at the end of this semester when I come home for the holidays, but they are killing my packing groove. Rather than terrify everyone with an image of my belongings strewn all over during the initial collection and sort, I have opted to share a cute photo of Alfalfa, Alisa (my best friend) and my’s guinea pig, touching grass for the first time when Alisa and he came to visit!

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Vacation All I Ever Wanted…

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Bright and early tomorrow morning my parents and I will head up to Mackinac Island and the Upper Peninsula(UP) of Michigan for a couple days of rest and relaxation. Ever since I can remember we have gone to Mackinac Island nearly every summer. It truly is a magical place since it is very small and there are no cars on the island. There are horse drawn carriage taxis or bicycles you can rent. It is so peaceful and relaxing. While we are up there my Grandmother, on my fathers side, GeBe, is up visiting from her home in North Carolina. It will be great to see her one least time before I head across the pond, particularly in her home turf. She’s originally from the UP. I can’t wait to relax and spend some much needed down time with my family! 

We’ll be back late on Saturday or mid-day on Sunday. Once we are back the final push begins to prep for the move across the pond. 20 days from now I will be on a plane flying from Detroit to Amsterdam (our flight is a bit round about…)… Craziness!!! 

Until then, it’s time for the calming breezes of the Great Lakes and some vacation time…

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“The Monuments Men” Coming This December!

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“The Monuments Men” Coming This December!   (clink the link to view the trailer for yourself!)

I’m so excited for this movie to come out and the trailer was released today! Based upon a book about a wonderful group of men (and the occasional woman!) during WWII who fought and worked to save art in the European theatre. In the movie, George Clooney directed and portrays George Stout, a conservator from the Harvard Fogg museum. Matt Damon plays a curator at and eventual director of the Met. Cate Blanchett plays Rose Valland, a woman who managed to keep most of the Louvre safe from the Nazis. The cast also includes John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, and more. Needless to say it’s a great cast! But back to George Clooney for a moment…

His character George Stout was a very influential conservator after the war. FAIC (the Foundation of AIC) has a scholarship for new conservators to attend professional meetings called the George Stout award. From their website: “The George Stout Memorial Fund offers awards to defray expenses (up to $1,000) of students (or those who graduated from a conservation program no longer than two years previously) who are members of AIC to attend professional meetings.” I’ll  definitely apply for one of these within the next four years. I’m just excited that such a big name and influential person is playing a conservator.

Going to the movies in December can’t come soon enough!