Peter Carey’s most recent novel, The Chemistry of Tears (Faber, 2012), is set in the fictional London Swinburne Museum of clocks, watches, automata, and wind-up engines. It focuses on Catherine Gehrig, a conservator who is mourning the death of her colleague and long-time secret lover. To help her get over her grief, Catherine’s boss gives her the challenging project of restoring a 19th century mechanical duck. Catherine’s project is based on the real life conservation of a silver swan automaton undertaken by Matthew Read of West Dean College.
We have all heard that Daniel Silva’s character Gabriel Allon is very loosely based on conservator David Bull. Are there other, less well-known instances of fictional conservators who are based on real conservators or of fictional conservation projects that are based on real conservation projects?