Morwena Stephens ACR
I love all the processes involved in a conservation project; beginning with the condition assessment and project brief to understand the object or collection, its history and how it is to be used, interpreted and cared for. Then there is the problem solving, based on experience, skills and testing, to identify what is required to perhaps clean, stabilise and support the object. This leads to the practical conservation, enhancing the appearance and structure of the object so that its function, asesthetics and/ or history can be revealed, enabling the treasured object to fulfil its role on display, or for study. Finally, there is the documentation that records the artefact, its history, condition, conservation treatment and advice on how to continue to care for it in its own particuar context.
I gained a 3 Year Postgraduate Diploma in Textile Conservation from the Textile Conservation Centre, University of London while doing placements and contracts in Burgundy, Paris, Cambridge and Cardiff. I developed my skills and experience in the conservation of Ethnographic Artefacts through a Museums & Galleries Commission Internship at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and later a Mellon Summer Fellowship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. I have over twenty years’ experience working for the National Trust, museums, heritage organisations and private individuals carrying out the conservation and mounting of textiles, costume and world culture artefacts, providing collections condition surveys and conservation plans, and delivering training to help people to care for their collections.
Dorset Museum in Dorchester reopened at the end of May 2021 following the completion of our £16.4m NLHF funded redevelopment project - Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset. The project saw the building and development of four new permanent galleries, a Special Exhibitions gallery, Learning Centre, visible collections store and a Library.
Displays of costume provide a key element to many of our displays telling the stories of Dorset’s people and history through fashionable dress, rural clothing and artist-inspired designs. Much of the costume we wanted to display had suffered from long-term storage and was extremely fragile with numerous holes, splits, and shattered silk.
We identified Morwena as the best person to conserve and conservation mount costume for the Museum’s new displays and were delighted with her work. With skill and professionalism, Morwena continued her work during the challenges of lockdown and has produced spectacular results. She has brought our costume collections to life through stabilising the fabrics and skilfully providing support for the garments while highlighting the fashionable silhouettes.
Highlights include conservation of a collection of men’s fashionable waistcoats which formed the basis of a successful grant application to the Costume Society for her to mount them for display and for the Museum to be able to purchase conservation-grade mannequins. Other star objects Morwena conserved are a maternity dress belonging to Edith Prideaux, a silk Friendly Society banner, a patchwork jacket made by the writer Sylvia Townsend Warner for Valentine Ackland and a 17th century raised work box.
Visitors to the Museum have expressed great interest and enjoyment in the costume displays and are delighted to see these beautiful objects, often exhibited for the first time. We are extremely grateful to Morwena for helping to preserve our costume collections so beautifully and the opportunities her work has provided for people to engage with our collections.
Lucy JohnstonExhibitions Manager
Three-year Postgraduate Diploma (Merit) in Textile Conservation, Textile Conservation Centre, Courtauld Institute, University of London.
City & Guilds 7306 Certificate in Adult Education with NVQ Assessor Awards D32 & D33, Exeter College
10 Week Andrew Mellon Fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Conservation Department, Suitland, Maryland. Conservation training and treatment of artefacts for the new museum, including participation in the Conservation Consultation with Anishnaabe community consultants.
8 day placement at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich working with Nicola Yates, Textile Conservator to gain further experience in large scale adhesive support of painted flags and banners, funded by the Anna Plowden Trust.
BA Hons (2:!) in Experimental Psychology, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Textiles & World Cultures Artefacts Conservator Conservation and mounting of costume, textiles and related materials from the UK, Europe and other World Cultures. Consultancy to carry out condition surveys, conservation plans and storage improvements. Development and delivery of training in the Collections Care of Costume, Textiles and World Cultures objects and collections.
Museums & Galleries Commission Internship in Ethnography Conservation, working on the Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment of the Designated World Cultures galleries at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Projects included conservation and research of a 1792 Tahitian Chief Mourner's Costume and a rare feathered, double-masked, Bakongo Priest costume. Conservation support to the Devon Ethnography Project through condition surveys and collections care development and delivery to museums across Devon.
Assistant Conservator, Textile Conservation, Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagan's, Cardiff
Contract Textile Conservator at Musée de l’Armée, Hotel des Invalides, Paris, conserving trophy flags from China and Sudan.