Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Fellowship a ‘chance of a lifetime’

[Lauren Buttle]
Lauren Buttle works on a project while she was a student in the Master’s in Art Conservation program at Queen’s. Ms Buttle, who graduated in 2015, is currently working in the Library Conservation Lab at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, through a Kress Foundation Fellowship. (Supplied Photo)

For Lauren Buttle, receiving the Kress Foundation Fellowship has presented her with the opportunity of a lifetime.

Through the fellowship, the graduate of the Queen’s Art Conservation program recently started working in the Library Conservation Lab at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

More exciting for Ms. Buttle, who specialized in paper conservation, is that her work will focus on the treatment of a papyrus Book of the Dead, an ancient Egyptian funerary text.

“I am very excited. This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along all that often, especially being in papyrus conservation. It’s something that is in a lot of Canadian collections but not in substantial enough quantities that warrants having a full-time papyrus conservator,” Ms. Buttle says. “To train in papyrus conservation is something that you would typically have to go abroad for so it’s very exciting to gain some of that knowledge and potentially bring it back to Canada.”

Through her fellowship work, Ms. Buttle will be involved in the conservation treatment of the book as well as researching the text itself, including its background and how it made its way to Ireland and came into possession of Trinity College. 

Even for a specialist in paper conservation, working with papyrus is a rarity and Ms. Buttle knows that this is an opportunity that few conservators will ever get during their careers.

At Queen’s, the Art Conservation program has three areas of focus – paintings conservation; objects conservation; and paper conservation. Ms. Buttle says that after completing their studies paper conservators can specialize further in areas such as the conservation of photographic materials,  book conservation and the conservation of papyrus, an early form of paper most often associated with ancient Egypt.  Further specialization is possible through fellowships and on-the-job training.

“My paper conservation degree has provided me with the foundations and this is a smaller area of interest that requires a bit more specialty training,” she explains. “That’s what I will be getting with this fellowship, which will be really great.” 

Most recently Ms. Buttle worked at the Yukon Archives, covering the conservation responsibilities – environmental monitoring, pest management, security monitoring, treatment of records – while the regular conservator led an expansion project.

Once again, it has been a valuable, hands-on learning experience.

“The position requires both looking at the collection as a whole and maintaining preventive conservation measures, as well as focusing on individual records   like creating assessments of new incoming materials, deciding whether or not they are physically and chemically stable enough to enter the vaults and if they are not, treating them accordingly,” she says. “It’s the day-to-day work of a conservator.”

Her art conservation studies at Queen’s, she feels, prepared her for the work that she is doing and the work that she will be undertaking starting in November.

“The program is a nice blend of theory in your morning classes and then putting that into practice in your afternoon lab courses. Then in the summer you get to take all that experience and get to actually put it into play in a real-life setting in an internship,” Ms. Buttle says. “It packs a lot into those two years but it’s very much trying to get you prepared for everything, both the academic research side of things as well as the practical day-to-day responsibilities of a conservator and I think that makes us really competitive applicants for the jobs out there.”

To learn more about the Kress Conservation Fellowship, visit the Kress Foundation website. For more information on the Art Conservation program at Queen’s visit the Department of Art History and Art Conservation website.