AIM Conservation Scheme: Museum Collections Unit, University of St Andrews

The following is an account from the Museum Collections Unit, University of St Andrews, on how an AIM conservation grant of  £1,500 has helped to preserve Indian paintings on glass.

The University of St Andrews was founded between 1410 and 1414 and has accumulated artefacts of significance since this period. The Museum Collections Unit exists to manage and preserve the collections in its care and to make these collections available to the academic, scholarly and general public by study, publication and exhibition.

The Museum Collections Unit was awarded an AIM Conservation Grant to support the conservation of a collection of rare Indian paintings on glass. The glass paintings depict Hindu deities and are thought to have been executed in Southern India, probably Tanjore, in the mid-19th century. The paintings are displayed inside wooden frames and the decoration has been painted directly onto the surface of the glass using gouache and gold leaf, which was likely bound in a gum arabic solution.

The collection was presented to the University of St Andrews in the late nineteenth century by the Reverend Augustus Clifford Bell (1832-1874), who was a graduate of the University. Reverend Bell was Chaplain of the Church of Scotland St Andrews Church, Madras, from 1860 to 1874 and it is believed that he may have collected these paintings during this period.

Painting 1

These paintings are significant not only for their artistic merit but also because of the valuable insight that they provide into material culture and cultural relations between Indian craftsmen and the British in the 19th century. These pieces were produced by Indian artists for British patrons. Works of this type are often referred to as ‘Company Paintings’ because many of these patrons worked for the various East India companies. Due to the fragility of their construction and often because of their religious subject matter, it was very rare for travellers to bring glass paintings back to Britain.

Before conservation, the glass paintings were in a very fragile condition. It was feared that the areas of painted decoration within the remaining eight glass paintings were in danger of being lost due to the deterioration and flaking of paint away from the glass surface. The paintings were also loose and unstable within their original wooden frames.

With the assistance of an AIM grant, the Indian paintings on glass have been conserved. This complex conservation project was carried out by an ICON-accredited stained glass conservator, Mr Mark Bambrough of the Scottish Glass Studios. The basis of this conservation approach was adapted from an article entitled ‘Conservation of Indian Mica Paintings’ in the Conservation Journal (Summer 2000, Issue 35), published by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Seven of the painted glass panes were removed from their wooden frames and placed inside a fume cabinet and sprayed with a consolidant (5% Paraloid B72 and Acetone). This process secured the loose paint fragments and gold leaf back to the glass panels. The glass panes were then returned to their frames in a way that prevented further movement of the painted panels and abrasion against the original wooden back board. This was achieved by placing a sheet of acid-free brown paper and polyethylene foam between the painted panel and wooden backboard to create a physical separation between the two surfaces.

Painting 2

The glass panes were then secured inside the frames by using small pieces of polyethylene foam to hold the glass in place and prevent any horizontal movement inside the frames (please see enclosed photographs documenting the individual processes). One of the glass paintings, a panel depicting Vishnu, had been badly broken in the past and held together using non-conservation grade tape and mount board. This panel was carefully removed from its backing board and bonded together using conservation grade resin to create one single decorated pane.

The assistance of an AIM Conservation Scheme grant has enabled the Museum Collections Unit to conserve the Indian paintings on glass in order to preserve and promote public access to this rare collection. We are delighted that this vital conservation work has secured their future for the benefit and appreciation of museum audiences for generations to come.

Claire Robinson

Collections and Exhibitions Curator

Museum Collections Unit, University of St Andrews

 To find out more about the types of grant that AIM offers, please visit:

Learning How to ‘Stop the Rot’: AIM Collections Care Workshops

The first in a series of AIM ‘Stop the Rot’ collections care workshops took place last Friday at the Firing Line Museum in Cardiff. AIM is running these workshops at several locations across the UK in the coming weeks thanks to funding from The Pilgrim Trust and there was a real sense of excitement in the air as everyone who had booked onto the Cardiff workshop arrived and took their places in the wonderful meeting room at the museum.

STR table

Goody bags at the ready!

Course Tutor, Jane Thompson–Webb, had endured a crack of dawn start and a long train journey from her home in Birmingham to be there, but her energy and enthusiasm for conservation was evident and she warmly greeted everyone and encouraged them to open up the free delegate packs that contain useful conservation items whilst reassuring the group that: “Collections Care is simply a modern development of a very old concept – housekeeping!”

A series of fun tasks and quizzes followed which all helped to take the fear out of conservation techniques and Jane gave some interesting facts and historical references about collections care from over the centuries. Attendees were also presented with case studies of when things go wrong in a museum – such as fire, flooding and theft – and how carefully thinking through the implications of collections care can help to reduce risk to objects.

Looking at SG

The AIM Success Guide ‘ Successful Collection Care’ proved very popular

After lunch, the attendees spilt into groups to explore Firing Line and exchanged ideas on how different displays could be cared for, followed by a ‘pest identification’ quiz using pest posters kindly donated by English Heritage. An explanation of how to use the different items in the free delegate packs and a run through of the AIM Success Guide ‘Successful Collection Care’  accompanied by tea, lively chat and biscuits completed a lovely day of training.

Pest Poster

Identifying those pesky pests

Jane did a great job of demystifying the basics of collections care and the feedback from the attendees was positively glowing with remarks including: “I really enjoyed the hands on tasks and will use my new skills every day at my museum”, “I now have a much better understanding of collections care – thank you!” and “I am going to use tips I discovered today to make the right changes at my museum”.

‘Stop the Rot’ – Free AIM Collections Care Workshops for AIM Members – Booking Information

Manchester April 9th – All free tickets SOLD OUT

Derby April 13th – All free tickets SOLD OUT

York April 16th – Few spaces left. Book soon to avoid disappointment here:

The Quilt Museum and Gallery (YORK) – Thursday 16th April

St Anthonys Hall, Peasholme Green, York, North Yorkshire YO1 7PW

Perth April 24th – Few spaces left. Book soon to avoid disappointment here:

The Black Watch Castle and Museum (PERTH – SCOTLAND) – Friday 24th April

Balhousie Castle, Hay Street, Perth PH1 5HR

*If you would like to be put on the waiting list for any of the above venues in case of cancellations, please email:

Goody Bag Cardiff

A peek inside the workshop goody bags!

AIM would like to thank: Jane Thompson – Webb, The Pilgrim Trust, Christopher Dale, Rachel Silverson and team at Firing Line, all Cardiff workshop attendees and the regional MDO teams for their support and promotion of these workshops.

Stop the Rot delegate packs contain items from: English Heritage, Conservation Resources, Conservation by Design, Meaco Measurement and Control and Edward Mason brushes.


Free seminars from Collections Trust around England

The Collections Trust Seminars

skills logo bigLondon | Manchester | Brighton | York | Exeter | Colchester


The Collections Trust, with funding and support from Arts Council England, has developed a series of free seminars that will provide you with the know-how to improve the use of technology in your museum and assist you with your collections development strategy.

The first seminar will take place in London on 6 October 2014. Book your free place now!

Who should attend

The seminars are aimed at Collections Management professionals and volunteers who work in small and medium-sized UK museums that are Accredited or that are working towards Accreditation.

Benefits of attending

  • Receive practical advice and support
  • Benefit from the experience of others
  • Gain insights that will help with Accreditation
  • Discover a range of useful resources
  • Add to your CPD
  • Network with colleagues

Dates and venues

6 October 2014 Science Museum, London Book now
6 November 2014 Manchester Meeting Place, Manchester Book now
1 December 2014 Brighton Done, Brighton Book now
13 January 2015 The Hospitium, York Book now
25 February 2015 RAMM, Exeter Book now
18 March 2015 Colchester Castle, Colchester Book now

For information about the programme see

Don’t forget the Going Digital Conference on 17th November!

The Collections Trust are looking for Creative Employment partners

Creative & Cultural Skills recently published a blog by Nick Poole, CEO of the Collections Trust, explaining why they are seeking partners to join their consortium application to the Creative Employment Programme.

In an increasingly competitive economy, all creative industries need to stay relevant to survive. For museums, refreshing and innovating our public offer depends on developing a thriving, diverse workforce – enabling people from all walks of life to build a career in our great cultural institutions. When many people think of a career in museums, they can be put off by the idea that they will need post-graduate degrees in history and fine art just to get their foot in the door. In reality, the modern museum sector demands a rich mix of creative, cultural and entrepreneurial skills. We need people who can inspire classrooms full of schoolchildren, deliver innovative programmes or build award-winning apps to help in the mission to engage as many people as possible in their cultural heritage.Read more of the blog here: The Collections Trust are looking for Creative Employment partners.

The blog goes on to explain that Collections Trust is looking for museum or cultural heritage institutions considering creating an apprenticeship in a collections-based role to join them in a consortium bid. Creative & Cultural Skills can provide financial support up to £1,500 or £2,000 per year (depending on the salary basis of the apprenticeship) and the Collections Trust is keen to add value to this by networking culture-sector employers and supporting the sharing of insights and experiences.

The deadline for expressions of interest in joining the Collections Trust’s consortium is Friday 29th August and CT encourage interested parties to make contact with them before then to discuss ideas and interest.

Find out more about the Collections Trust’s call for partners.


Applications open for Collections Management Traineeships @CollectionTrust

The Collections Trust and Arts Council England are delighted to launch a joint initiative to pilot a Collections Management Traineeships programme for the museum and heritage sector.

A video introducing the programme is available on the Collections Trust website.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for entry to the Collections Management Traineeship Programme, candidates must:

  • Be legally entitled to work or volunteer in the UK
  • Be working or volunteering in the UK museum and heritage community
  • Have worked or volunteered in this capacity for no more than 5 years
  • Have secured the support of their current host or employer for their participation
  • Be positive, enthusiastic and open in their approach
  • Be willing to commit to participating actively in the programme

How to apply

Candidates should download the Application Form, complete and return it no later than 17.00 on Friday, 21st August 2014

Further information and resources

To help decide whether the Collections Management Traineeship Programme is right for you, they have developed the following additional guidance and resources:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Timeline for the Traineeship Programme
  • Information for Employers

via Collections Management Traineeships – Collections Trust.

Free Webinar – Buying Collections Management Software from Collections Trust

The Collections Trust would like to invite AIM members to join us for a free webinar on ‘Buying Collections Management Software’ led by Nico Tyack, Documentation Officer at Edinburgh City Council.

The webinar will take place online between 12.00-13.00 GMT next Thursday 27th March 2014. It is completely free to attend, but you are asked to register in advance to ensure we have record of numbers – registration only takes a moment and can be done by emailing

Subjects covered during the webinar include:

  • The role played by a CMS in the management of a museum collection, and reasons for changing it
  • The CMS procurement process, including identification of system requirements
  • The range of software systems available
  • The relevance of SPECTRUM Compliance to the procurement of CMS systems
  • Tips on where to start with the procurement process

Full information about the webinar is available on Collection Trust’s website at

This webinar is part of a programme of work coordinated by the Collections Trust which aims to help museums choose the right Collections Management software for their needs. It is a companion to the popular Collections Management Software Survey which is completely free to use and available at

Free Collections Management Webinars

The Collections Trust are running a series of webinars on Collections Management, ideal for those who find the time and expense of travelling for training is a problem.

The webinars are aimed at small and medium-sized museums who are either Accredited or who are working towards Accreditation. They are free and aim to support the development of collections management skills. Webinars are facilitated by collections management experts from the museum sector.

Webinars will last approximately 1 hour and are presented in a variety of formats, accessible online through Collections Link. Some will take place live, while others will consist of pre-posted presentations, followed by audio or written web chats. No Registration is required. The link to get to the webinars will be posted on Collections Link before the event. The first one is on 14th February at noon.

Event enquiries

Contact Lucy Douglas, Events Manager
T +44 (0)20 7942 6080