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Wednesday, May 31 • 2:30pm - 2:55pm
(Unique Objects/Unique Treatment) How important is knowing the ropes? Thoughts on the ethics and practice of conserving ship model rigging

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The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam holds a significant collection of ship models transferred from the Dutch Navy in the 1880s. One particularly miniature model, the Thetis, is a 1:150 scale (estimated) fully-rigged model of a 24 gun, three deck ship. The model is polychrome and has decorative elements such as a crowned lion figurehead and stern carvings both carved from wood, and painted lead fishtail drops on the lower portions of the quarter galleries. Additional fittings include two anchors, two launches hanging above the waist, a ship’s bell, and a capstan on the main deck under bone grating. Though it is thought that the model represents a frigate named Thetis built in Amsterdam in the 18th century, it is unclear exactly which vessel the model represents, nor is it understood who made the model or for what purpose it was built, meaning that it is considered a non-technical model. Although the Thetis has been subject to at least three previous restoration campaigns, the thread rigging and textile sails of the ship model were found to be in an overall poor state and unstable condition. While rigging is often considered an important aesthetic component representative of a vital functional element on ship models, it may not always be accurate to the ship or the period that is represented for a variety of reasons. These materials are often the first part of the ship model that experience damage. On the Thetis, most of the silk sails were damaged, with tears and losses throughout. Additionally, much of the cotton thread that represents the running rigging was desiccated and broken. There is little to no formal literature regarding materials commonly utilized in ship model rigging, the conservation issues associated with ship model rigging, or the potential conservation treatments for this aesthetically complex portion of ship models. Traditionally, ship model makers, historians, and hobbyists have restored ship models, often completely removing and re-rigging the model as part of the restoration process. As part of this, damaged, desiccated, or what is considered incorrect rigging is often removed and replaced. The Thetis is no exception: it is likely that the rigging and sails were replaced sometime after it was accessioned into the Rijksmuseum in 1883. However, an additional crucial issue that required further consideration prior to conservation process is that the model has been incorrectly rigged in many areas. The historic practice of re-rigging still remains common in the field of ship model restoration on an international scale within both private and institutional collections. However, the ethics of performing full and even partial re-rigging on these unique objects must be carefully considered, especially in regards to miniature scale and non-technical ship models. This paper will use the most recent conservation treatment of the rigged portion of the Thetis as the lens to explore the ethical considerations in the conservation of ship model rigging, with the goal of providing a suggested practical methodology.

avatar for Davina Kuh Jakobi

Davina Kuh Jakobi

International Fellow (consulting conservator), Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum
From 2015-2017, Davina Kuh Jakobi served as the Junior Conservator for Ship and Scale Models at the Rijksmuseum, working primarily with the ship models in the Marinemodellenkamer (Navy model room) collection. Prior to this, Davina Kuh Jakobi has undertaken numerous conservation internships... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 2:30pm - 2:55pm CDT
Crystal Ballroom B Lobby Level, West Tower