Mary Rose researcher on beamline B18

I am enormously pleased about today’s A Day in the Life: Eleanor Schofield is the Conservation Manager at the Mary Rose Trust. The Mary Rose is a Tudor ship, which sank in Portsmouth Harbour in 1545, and was not discovered on the seabed until 1971.

I was a very little girl at primary school when the Mary Rose was raised from the sea in 1982, (does anyone else remember the photos of the ship encased in the bright yellow shell used to raise her?) and her story has always fascinated me.

There’s a common misconception that the Mary Rose sank on her maiden voyage. In fact, she was a successful warship, built in 1510, and in the service of Henry VIII  for 34 years, almost the entire duration of his reign, and fought in three wars. No one knows why she sank, but there are several theories. In the 21st century she is on display in a beautiful museum in Portsmouth, whilst her preservation and conservation work continues.

To be granted a glimpse behind the scenes of the painstaking conservation work has been an absolute privilege, and I do hope that you enjoy reading about Eleanor’s day as much I have done.

The time I get up depends whether it is a morning when I feel like I can drag myself for a run, so it can vary between 6 and 6.30. I confess that I often take a look at my phone when I wake up to see if any emails have come through.

In my defence, the Mary Rose museum where I work, which houses Henry VIII’s flagship hull and artefacts, has building management systems which send out emails if something has gone majorly wrong overnight. I prefer to know what I might have to face that day!

Wet Ship Hall kit

I usually have tea and cereal or porridge with fruit for breakfast and get ready quite quickly. I live very close to work and am lucky enough to be able to walk in. It takes about half an hour to get to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where the museum is housed. Parts of the walk are along the seafront, which is wonderful in good weather but a bit brutal when it is wet and windy. Not long after moving here for this job I invested in an all-weather coat!

In my office

I arrive at work at 8am and head straight to my office to check emails, log into the control systems for the museum and check everything is running as it should be. Monday mornings generally consist of catching up and touching bases with other departments within the museum and resolving any issues that come up.

Our new museum opened in 2013 and saw a shift in conservation of the hull from spraying with a stabilising polymer, to environmentally controlled air drying. It also involved all new control systems behind the scenes. Ensuring this all runs smoothly and in tandem with other aspects of the museum, such as the visitor experience, can be a challenge, especially as we are ourselves getting used to the new set-up.

Installing drying ducts

Following this my day can follow a variety of different directions. In some instances I go into the ship hall where the Mary Rose hull is located to assist the team working in there.

On these days I get ready for work exceptionally quickly as it is a case of jeans and a t-shirt and minimal attention to anything else! The ship hall is now dry which means conditions are better, but there is still a great potential to get covered in dirt so I don’t see the point of making myself up in the first place.


Confined space training

At other times I spend significant time in my office, this can be analysing data, writing publications, planning next phases of conservation work, and liaising with students/academics working on different research projects related to conservation with partnering Universities. The research of my work sometimes takes me away from the office, to visit collaborators, do experiments or attend conferences. I love this part of my work, but it does make it difficult to keep on top of the everyday aspects.

Lunch usually soup or salad, and is either at my desk or wandering around the local outlet centre, Gunwharf Quays, which is dangerously close to the museum! If possible I do try to at least get out for a little walk. Even if super busy I find a break will make me more productive as the day rolls on.

Hotbox dirt - April 2013

When at work I typically leave around 4.30pm and walk home. Evenings consist of running (if that did not successfully happen in the morning!), reading, cooking (I love a good pasta bowl, particularly spaghetti bolognese, or a homemade stir fry with lots of colourful vegetables and chicken), and watching the latest thing on Netflix.

All these things help me to unwind and relax. Sometimes if I am on a roll with grant writing / paper writing, I will continue this into the evening. You have to use the inspiration when you get it!

I usually go to bed around 10pm. I find days at work can be quite hectic and by that point I am ready to sleep and get myself ready for whatever the next day will bring.

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