I’m Sarah Maisey and I’m a Paintings Conservator for the Royal Museums Greenwich.
Sarah, tell us about your role here.
As a Paintings Conservator, most of my work involves the treatment of oil paintings on canvas or panels. So I could be doing all sorts of things, from simple surface cleaning to more complex in-depth treatments like removing old discoloured varnishes and poorly-applied restorations or re-varnishing and retouching pictures. I also do quite a lot of in-depth visual investigations of paintings to try and determine how the artists might have gone about painting them.
How are you finding the new building?
The main thing for me is that we have so much more space here. I’ve now had the chance to start working on really big pictures in our collection which we hadn’t had the opportunity to work on for a few years, simply because they wouldn’t fit in our previous studio. I’m excited start work on this big painting here – ‘A Royal Visit to the Fleet’ by an artist called Willem van de Velde.
So to get these paintings into your studio, what does that require?
Simple things like big lifts, big doorways, wide corridors as well as there being space in the studio.
Do you like working in the studio here?
There’s fantastic light in the studio – it’s north-facing and actually we need that to do effective retouching, to get the effective colour matching and avoid problems with direct light. So big windows and north-facing light is quite important to us. Then the other really big advantage of these studios is the inbuilt extraction. I do a lot of work with various solvents and other chemicals – things that you really don’t want to be inhaling large quantities of – so just having the inbuilt extraction is a massive advantage too.
Are you finding this building is more social?
I would say so, definitely. The tea room is quite a big social hub, it’s nice that everybody collects in there. Just being around people and being able to speak to them one-to-one helps with work. Naturally, you’ll just exchange ideas which is really useful. And it’s enormously helpful to be able to talk to the storage and collections teams on a day-to-day basis. If they have concerns with a particular painting, they can just come and find me and bring it up for conservation pretty much straight away. That was much more problematic beforehand.
When you walk into the building how do you feel?
I’m proud of this building when I walk into it. It just looks impressive. I have lots of colleagues that work in other institutions or in private studios who have much more cramped spaces which aren’t as fit-for-purpose. So when I walk into this space it feels like a much more professional environment. Clean and modern as well.