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Conservation expert sheds light on caring for antiques

September 10


Conservation expert sheds light on caring for antiques

A one-day workshop for people wanting to look after their antique treasures will feature as part of this year’s Auckland Heritage Festival.

The workshop will be held on October 6 at Highwic – the NZ Historic Places Trust property in Newmarket – and will be led by Madelaine Abey-Koch, a former National Trust Conservator for Southern England and Wales now based in New Zealand, who also regularly volunteers her skills at Highwic.

“The workshop will cover a wide range of objects that are likely to feature in family collections – including furniture, ceramics, textiles, metals and paintings – and will look at ways to reduce the risk of their deterioration in the home,” says Madelaine.

“We’ll also be considering some examples from Highwic’s collection, and then looking at their condition and methods of cleaning and care. In addition I’ll show some images of unusual repairs and unexpected deterioration in British country houses, and answer questions around these and any other queries people might have about looking after artefacts.”

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to care for family treasures – far from it according to Madelaine.

“There are a number of simple, inexpensive measures people can put in place that will ensure the long-term survival of their heirlooms, and we will be learning about some of these tricks of the trade,” she says.

“Conservation of antiques is often a very practical thing.”

Unearthing ancient Greek treasures in archaeological sites in Europe first captured Madelaine’s interest and drew her into the world of artefacts and conservation. Now retired, she has worked for English Heritage and the British Museum as well as the National Trust over the years.

During her professional career as a conservator, Madelaine has worked with such diverse and extraordinary objects as seventeenth-century furniture, the Tang warriors, State beds and carvings created by pre-eminent English wood craftsman, Grinling Gibbons.

More recently, Madelaine has used some of her conservation skills to prepare some of the garments for the Fashion Treasures at Highwic exhibition which will run throughout September – a rare display of historic apparel ranging from some of the earliest clothing associated with the European history of New Zealand through to examples of fashionable clothing from the 18890s-1920s.

“We have a lot of visitors to Highwic and it’s not uncommon for them to ask us questions about conservation of different objects,” says Madelaine.

“When you think about it, people’s antiques have often come down through the family and tend to be of a similar vintage to the objects we have on display here at Highwic. Now people have the chance to take part in a workshop that will enable them to learn how to care for and reduce deterioration in their household treasures.”

The Caring for Antiques Workshop will take place on October 6, 10.30am-3.30pm and will be limited to 20 participants so booking is essential. To book, contact Highwic on Ph 09-524-5729 or email The cost to attend the workshop is $40 per person for the day.


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