The Conservation Skills Initiative (CSI) has been created to give recently graduated conservation students or those from the crafts field with a keen interest in conservation, experience working with skilled conservators on significant objects of the nation's heritage at the National Maritime Museum's Conservation Department. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund's Skills for the Future programme. The main purpose of this stream of funding is to 'support organisations across the UK to create new opportunities for work-based training in the heritage sector.'
Linda Brothwell, our first metals intern under the HLF funded Conservation Skills Initiative programme.

The grant enables us to pay interns to undertake a year-long experience within the department, where they will have the opportunity to work with Senior Conservators in either metals or textile conservation. The project will deliver six one-year internships over a four-year period - four in metals and two in textile conservation.
The interns would be expected to work on objects exhibiting complex conservation issues that will stretch the individual while, at the same time, taking part in the daily routine of the studios. Part of the internship will also encompass a two-week period working with the Preventive Conservator to gain a basic understanding of the impact of the environment on the long-term stability of objects.
The textile interns will be given an unparalleled opportunity to improve and develop their textile conservation skills. The interns will be working on a range of objects that are required for the Museum's public programme. These will include small flags requiring stitched support leading to more complex degraded flags needing adhesive support, printed and embroidered textiles which will need treatment and mounting on fabric covered boards, uniforms requiring simple support of areas of minor loss leading to more complex support of silk linings before being mounted for display, and accessories such as hats and sword belts to be treated and mounted.
The metal interns will have similarly unique opportunities to gain a solid understanding of basic metal working skills and develop conservation expertise of fine metal objects. The metal conservation studio at the NMM has excellent facilities including a well equipped metal machine workshop. The interns will be working on historic edged weapons beginning with dirks and leading on to full swords with high decoration; medals from the plain to the very detailed; and scientific instruments starting with simple terrestrial telescopes and progressing to more complex engineering models.
Detail of metal gilt locket on the scabbard (WPN1284) prior to conservation showing the extent of tarnishing and corrosion.

The sources of the intern's objects will come from the Museum's programme of gallery redisplay, new galleries, temporary exhibitions, loans in and out, and routine maintenance of the museum's displayed objects
At time of writing our first intern - Linda Brothwell - has joined the metal section and has very quickly settled in amongst the edged weapons, sextants and binnacles.
This programme helps to fill a critical gap in current conservation training and is generating tremendous interest from students as well as institutions. HLF is to be congratulated for this far-sighted funding.