While in my last term at West Dean I restored a Vichy Huntsman Smoking Automaton. This is a clockwork figure that when operated smokes real cigarettes! As you can imagine, this is quite the party trick. I like to think of old men sitting in their fancy oak parlors with a glass of scotch and a cigarette alongside their sole smoking companion (an equally fancy gentleman automaton). I am sure this is a real scenario…
When it arrived on my desk, it was in quite a state! Actually, I thought it served as an effective warning against smoking…
Working with the organic materials used to construct the automaton would require a thorough investigation into related areas of conservation.
- Textiles and leather conservation techniques would be required for the wool coat and leather trousers and boots.
- Furniture and wooden object conservation would inform the best approach to issues with the wooden structure and base.
- Paper and paintings conservation would provide the resources needed to conserve the head and hands.
The treatment of the clockwork and organic materials will be outlined in subsequent posts, as well as my related MA research – which includes the construction of a smoking machine. So stay tuned!