Icon Annual Lecture: Meet the Speaker

Conservator Flora Davidson will discuss the conservation of artifacts raised from the wrecks of Sir John Franklin’s fateful 1845 expedition

27 Sep 2021

The Icon Annual Lecture takes place on 27 October. This year, we will delve into the famed and mysterious wreckages of Captain Sir John Franklin's 1845 'lost expedition'. 

Recently the subject of hit AMC and BBC TV series The Terror, Franklin's Arctic exploration marked a key – if not catastrophic –moment in British maritime history. But what secrets can conservation reveal about this calamity? In her presentation, conservator Flora Davidson will discuss the practical efforts and underlying ethical considerations that went into conserving such a complex series of artifacts. 

 

Flora has devoted two decades of her career to the preservation of artifacts in collections across Canada. The artifacts that she has worked on illuminate stories of previous generations and connect people to places and historical events.

After completing undergraduate degrees in science and fine art from the University of British Columbia, Flora earned a Master of Arts in the Conservation of Historic Objects (Archaeology) from Durham University, UK.  She has worked for a variety of museums and heritage organizations including Parks Canada, The Vancouver Museum and the Canadian Conservation Institute. She has recently started a heritage conservation consulting service.

Her recent role as Franklin Conservator at Parks Canada saw her lead the conservation of artifacts which, due to their intrinsic association with Franklin’s fateful expedition, have captivated archaeologists, academics and history buffs alike.

I became involved in the project as the Underwater Archaeology Team at Parks Canada prepared to bring the first  artifact from  HMS Erebus, the ships' bell, back to.  It started with a call by satellite phone from  one of the lead archaeologists on site confirming how to safely care and handle the object for  transport so they could bring it to  the lab for treatment.

Flora had been working as an archaeological conservator at Parks Canada for about 10 years at the time, working on artifacts from various national historic sites across Canada. She specialized in conservation of objects from marine sites:

I'd worked on artifacts from HMS Investigator, a vessel sent up to search for Franklin, years prior to the finding of Franklin's ships. 

Flora's work on monitoring wreck sites served her well to prepare for and understand the deterioration of ships and artifacts from marine context - in particular, the chemistry and biological effects that are not seen to the same degree in artifacts from historic or land sites.  

 

Book your ticket for Icon's Annual Lecture to hear Flora speak about this fascinating project.