Conference Review: University of York Masterclass ‘New Voices in Stained Glass Conservation’

Celeste Flower, current Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management MA student

Fig. 1. Monika Adamczak

Fig. 1. Monika Adamczak

The spring masterclass of the University of York’s MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management took place in The King’s Manor, York, on 28 February 2015. The masterclass, now in its seventh year attracted participants with a wide range of interests. In her opening remarks Sarah Brown explained how she and Dr Ivo Rauch (co-organizers of the event) had been impressed by the enthusiasm of the invited speakers, who were bringing vitality to the future of stained-glass studies in general and to the conservation of glass in particular. Rather than having a single thematic focus for the day, this was to be an omnium-gatherum in which new voices from the conservation community could showcase and elucidate a range of recent and current projects in the field. A striking feature of the programme was that although each speaker had studied at York, all had come from different starting points, and their subsequent career paths were equally varied. They shared with the audience this variety of opportunity and experience in a series of clearly illustrated technical presentations, punctuated with insightful personal observations.

Dr Alison Gilchrist, a conservator at Barley Studio near York, who had recently received Accredited Conservator Restorer status under the ICON PACR scheme, spoke on ‘Becoming a conservator: from MA towards ACR’. She outlined the rigorous combination of study and internship required to achieve professional status, exemplified by the range of examples of projects in which she had been involved.[1] Her message to the would-be conservator was clear: make the most of opportunities in the forms of placements, bursaries, fellowships and networks and go out of your way to ‘make things happen’.

Monika Adamczak’s presentation ‘Glacier Transparencies: Research and Conservation Options’ introduced the audience to a lesser-known method of decorating window glass popular in domestic and church settings during the 19th century. The susceptibility of the materials to deterioration leaves few well-preserved examples and Monika’s work on the possible ways to conserve such fragile ‘Diaphanies’ and other transparencies is breaking new ground. Monika currently works at the York Glaziers Trust.

Fig. 2. Anna Santolaria Tura

Fig. 2. Anna Santolaria Tura

Anna Santolaria Tura of Can Pinyonaire Stained Glass Studio in Girona is well known for her seminal work on the Girona Cathedral glaziers’ table.[2] She gave ‘Guidelines for Conservation’ and an account of her latest research into the identification of the glass panels created using the tables, suggesting that as many as seven different panels may have come from them. Her new findings also seem to provide firmer evidence concerning the order in which some Girona Cathedral panels were assembled.

In ‘The Place of Research and Digital Documentation in a Heritage Lottery Funded Project’, Laura Tempest focused on specific examples from the Great East Window of York Minster to show how scrupulous research can bring to light astonishing new evidence for visual details in previously restored windows.[3] Art-historical research officer for the York Minster Revealed Project and a conservator at York Glaziers Trust, Laura also outlined the development of digitized systems for pre- and post-conservation recording. In doing so, Laura was clear that one method of recording would not suit all, and individual cases would need to adapt available programmes or create their own, according to the scale of a project.

The theme of adaptation was taken up by Sarah Jarron, an independent conservator and international consultant. Sarah’s presentation, ‘The Conservation of Four Monumental Choir Windows in Ulmer Münster: Production, Adaptation and Application of the Conservation Concept’, reinforced the need for continuous revision of intentions for intervention based on research and hard scientific evidence, followed by scrupulous recording of procedures, within and across projects. Each speaker’s work was accompanied by stunning photographs, making the whole day a treat for both the ear and the eye.

During the course of the day, delegates were invited to visit the Nicholas Barker Conservation Studio to hear from the current second-year MA students. All are engaged in a fascinating range of individual conservation projects as part of their degree submission. The 2015 spring masterclass was an opportunity to meet like minds from other regions, to enjoy discussion, and to enthuse about the many possibilities open to those who choose stained-glass conservation as a passion or profession.


1. Read more about Alison’s projects in the feature article, ‘“The tears wept by our windows”: severe paint loss from stained glass windows of the mid-nineteenth century’, Vidimus 64 (2012). The full text of the dissertation can be found on the CVMA (GB) website.

2. See Anna’s book: Vitralls sobre taules de vitraller: La taula de Girona (‘Glazing on White-Washed Tables’), Girona, 2014

3. Read more about York Minster Revealed in Sarah Brown’s Apocalypse: The Great East Window of York Minster, London, 2014.

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