The Textile Conservation Centre

Dr Paul Garside

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Paul Garside studied for a Master of Chemistry (Chemistry with Professional Training) degree at the University of Southampton, graduating in 1998. He then stayed on for doctoral research with Paul Wyeth on the characterisation of natural polymer fibres in historic textiles, which was awarded in 2002. 

From 2002 to 2007 he was employed as a postdoctoral Research Fellow in the AHRC Research Centre for Textile Conservation and Textile Studies (Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton), where his research concentrated on the use of spectroscopy, along with other analytical techniques, to develop methods of identifying textile fibres and characterising their physical and chemical states.  This work was carried out with the aim of revealing information that may help to determine the construction, origin and condition of artefacts, and to inform potential conservation, display and storage decisions.

Initially this research concentrated on natural fibres, particularly cellulosic materials and silk - conventional and polarised spectroscopic techniques were developed to probe the chemistry and microstructure of these fibres.  Assessing and interpreting these properties enabled such materials to be accurately identified, even when too damaged to be characterised by conventional means, and their physical condition to be indirectly assessed.  Subsequently the scope of the research was broadened to include a variety of modern synthetic polymers, including polyurethane foams and regenerated protein fibres, and methods were developed to allow the in situ characterisation of these materials in museum collections.

In 2007 he was the Research Fellow in a two-year research project funded with a grant from the AHRC  to investigate the characteristics and degradation of silks treated with metal salt weighting agents.  Weighting was a process commonly employed in Europe from the late 18th to the 20th century, and which is implicated in the deterioration of these materials.  This research project enabled the rôle of various different weighting agents (along with associated treatments such as bleaching) in degradation processes to be more fully understood, thus supporting the future preservation of such artefacts.

In addition to this research, he also carried out investigations of specific artefacts to support the work of the Conservation Services staff, on projects such as conservation of the fore topsail of the HMS Victory (Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar) and the clothing worn by the climber George Mallory during his attempt to climb Everest.  Analyses of this kind were also carried out on a consultancy basis for external clients.

Paul also taught those aspects of the MA Textile Conservation course relating to conservation science, such as the chemistry, properties and degradation of textile fibres and related materials, and the use of analytical techniques including microscopy, spectroscopy, chromatography and mechanical testing, as well as being involved in the supervision of PhD students.

In 2009, he left the TCC to join the British Library in the role of Conservation Scientist.