Internship at the Bavarian National Museum

By Emily Kelmendi

Shortly after graduating from the Furniture Graduate Diploma Programme I was offered the opportunity of a short term internship in the furniture restoration department of the Bavarian National Museum in Munich.

The Bayrische National Museum, as it is called in German, is considered one of the most important museums of decorative arts in Europe. It hosts a large collection of European decorative arts. This collection is divided in two main groups, the art historical collection and the folklore collection. Have a look at The Bayrische National Museum website although only in German, you do get an insight what this museum has to offer.

The department

The restoration department is one of the largest and most modern departments of this kind in Germany. The conservators have their departments in a building that was purposely built for this in 2000. This building, which houses the seven restoration workshops: stone, metal, textiles, sculpture/paintings, furniture, objects/glass/ceramics, and European ethnographics, is set up with the newest technology and offers working space of over 5000qm. A large building with very spacious workshops.

In 2014 the museum is being extended. A new west wing with mainly furniture will be opened. With over forty objects on the list to be treated before the opening, the furniture department was quite busy. And any constructive contribution towards the work was appreciated.

The Object

During my time in the furniture restoration department I worked on an carved rococo gilt mirror. This object was going to be exhibited in the new west wing and was part of the large collection of Bavarian rococo sculpture which the Museum houses. The main issue of this object was the loss of materials in some areas. Its surface had also clearly suffered from dust and other kinds of dirt, which needed removing.


The surface had lost its sheen and had become matt with had a greyish film over it. Several surface cleaning tests had been done from my predecessor, a student from Vienna doing also an internship during the summer. A mixture of Shellsol T and acetone had prooved itself as most effective solution on the water gilded frame. After mechanically removing as much dust as possibly, I continued with a Shellsol T and acetone mixture with a ratio of 1:2, which worked very well. This combination of a non-polar solvent, Shellsol T, with a very polar solvent, acetone, is a common solution to clean water gilding.


Some Areas after Cleaning

Rebuilding areas of loss and retouching

Areas of loss I built up with a mixture of protein glue and kaolin chalk. After carving the areas to shape I colour matched them with a set of pigments especially put together for the retouching of gilded objects. This set of Kremer pigments I can highly recommend.

As my time in Munich was limited I did not see the object finished. But I am looking forward to seeing it in the exhibition in 2014. The museum has many branch museums around Munich. So I also spent some time of the internship in the old part of the Castle Schloss Schleissheim. This Castel houses a museum of ethnographical artefacts from all around the world related to the worship of Christ.

I had a great time in Munich, and the head of furniture department, Roswitha Schwarz, has offered to organise another placement for me in the conservation teams of a major castle in Munich next year!