Conservation Awards Ireland
Due to current budget restrictions, the Heritage Council is longer in a position to run this Award Scheme.
The inaugural Heritage Council Conservation Award was awarded in 2009 to John Gillis, conservator at the National Museum of Ireland, for his work on the Fadden More Psalter, the remains of an illuminated vellum manuscript which was found in a bog in Co. Tipperary in July 2006. The manuscript is a psalter dating from the 8th century and is the first Irish manuscript to be discovered in over 200 years. It consists of five quires inside a tanned leather cover made from a single piece of skin. It has spent most of its life buried and contains many original features and unusual aspects usually lost to manuscripts above ground due to re-binding and other changes to the structure.
The very poor state of preservation and the unique nature of the find, set a challenge for conservators that included the trial and development of a system to de water the saturated vellum. Other aspects of the project included the difficult and complicated removal of clumps of vellum fragments before separating out and cleaning, which was accompanied by painstaking and detailed recording in order to establish the folio number and to allow collation analysis. Much of the methodology was developed on-site as the nature of the problem was a first in conservation terms. To date conservators have succeeded in drying all of the fragments including the tanned leather cover, which is now dry and stable.
John Gillis believes that the Psalter contains a wealth of new information on a number of levels from art history to palaeography and codicology. The manuscript went on display in the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology, Kildare Street in July 2011. As a result of the Heritage Council Conservation Award, John Gillis will now be able to conduct further research into the cover of the book, which is unique in a western context and has strong links in both style and materials to Coptic bindings from the 4th century. This in turn brings fresh evidence of the long running debate about the Coptic Church and its pre Patrician influence in Ireland. A television programme, Treasure of the Bogs, on this project was broadcast in September 2010 on RTE 1.