So. I got to go up to the furniture conservation studio a couple of weeks ago, and learnt some interesting facts about our collection and furniture conservation in general.
We spent some time looking at Japanese lacquer, which is toxic when it is wet, causing allergies in 8/10 people. It has to dry in a wet box (not sure of the physics behind this…) and whilst it is often used as a coating on other things, it is possible to create dishes etc. out of just the lacquer if a mould is used (I wasn’t too keen on these, they are very light which makes them feel a bit plasticky).
I also looked at a Riesener cabinet, which was signed multiple times. Probably more than necessary…
Riesener cabinets have a slide-on back panel, and in fact most of the furniture can be taken apart without unscrewing anything. This is something the Wallace will be capitalising on soon, displaying several items of furniture in pieces, to give more information about its construction. For someone who finds overly ornate French furniture a bit ghastly when complete, it is much more interesting to appreciate the workmanship that went into it!
For the bits that don’t come apart, furniture can be CT scanned to find out more. Apparently a local hospital lends its services to this, which must be interesting for the other patients in the waiting room…
Lastly, the conservation department has a strange gun thing that looks like a taser or a badass water pistol but it doesn’t do either of those things.
It is supposed to detect the materials used in an object, but there are many problems with this, such as the fact it does not penetrate very deeply into the surface, so will read a gold plated item as gold, not registering its underlying material.