Conservation

Parian Ware - A Complex Jigsaw

on Tuesday, 06 January 2015. Posted in Conservation

We recently had a number of Parian ware figurines come in for treatment. Parian ware is a type of unglazed porcelain used in the 19th century to imitate marble. It was usually used to make figurines and other decorative pieces.  

The damage on the pieces ranged from a few minor chips to items that were in a fragmentary condition. It was clear that this would be a challenging treatment. Piecing together the broken items was especially difficult as fragments from many different figures were present in each box. It was not clear until we started work which object some of the fragments belonged with. Each piece would need to be positioned precisely to allow the fragments around it to fit correctly. Some joins had to be taken down and re assembled several times before the rest of the object could be put together satisfactorily.

As Good as New... Conserved Fire Engine on Display

on Tuesday, 14 October 2014. Posted in Conservation

In late August this year CMAS conservators were privileged to work on an exciting project to conserve a 19th century fire engine prior to display at Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury. The fire engine is constructed mainly from wood, which has been brightly painted in blue and red. A large trough houses a central pump in a wooden box the whole engine sits on four chunky wooden wheels reinforced with iron tyres. Folding handles extend from the body of the engine which would be used to pump the water from its source through the machine and onto the fire. Measuring 2 metres long x 1.4 metres high the fire engine is of an imposing size. Although it is still relatively easy to manoeuvre the engine with a small team of people the response times would still have been much longer than we are now used to!

Our Conservation team's expert handiwork is now on display at the Museum of East Asian Art

on Tuesday, 05 August 2014. Posted in Conservation

The Museum of East Asian Art in Bath currently has an exhibition showcasing some of their exquisite Chinese Metalwork and the conservation work carried out on the objects by conservators here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The aim of the exhibition is to show that by carefully cleaning and looking after objects we can ensure they will be treasured for generations to come.

The objects on display are highly decorated often involving the use of, gold and silver or other coatings such as lacquer and enamelling. The presence of additional materials and decorative coatings makes the conservation of such objects more complex and so poses more of a challenge. Each of the treatments needs to be picked carefully to ensure the work carried out on one of the materials does not adversely affect any of the others.

A tale of two hoards...

on Saturday, 05 April 2014. Posted in Conservation

The conservation lab has been overtaken by the Bronze Age recently with two hoards totalling over 200 objects requiring x-ray, cleaning and stabilisation. Both the Hindon and Wardour hoards were found by a metal detectorist near Salisbury and have been declared as treasure. The hoards were excavated by archaeologists and information about how they were buried is being collected and analysed in the hope of gaining some clue as to why the objects were buried. Both hoards have been acquired by the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and once the objects have been conserved they will be put on display in the renovated Wessex Gallery at the museum.

In January of this year the conservation team took microscopes, cleaning tools and brushes and a few objects from the Wardour hoard to the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum as part of the ‘Watch This Space Exhibition’ giving visitors and local school groups a chance to see behind-the-scenes conservation in action. In the public gallery, conservators were on hand to answer questions about the hoard and demonstrate the cleaning techniques we use. Using the microscopes, the conservators were able to see the objects under magnification and could carry out mechanical cleaning.

Sir Thomas Long's Helmet

on Saturday, 01 February 2014. Posted in Conservation

My name is Wendy S-Woodiwis and I am currently on placement with the conservation department at Wiltshire and Swindon History centre. I am studying conservation of both archaeological and museum objects at Durham University. One of the objects which I am currently working on is a medieval armet which is a type of helmet which was developed in the 15th century.  The armet is part of a collection of funerary armour which was originally hung about Sir Thomas Long’s (1451-1508) tomb in Draycot Cerne church until 2009. Sir Thomas Long fought alongside Henry VII in pursuit of the rebel Perkin Warbeck and was knighted at the marriage of King Arthur, he then died in 1508. The history of Sir Thomas Long and the funerary armour go hand in hand. Firstly he was known as a man of arms and secondly there is a date for his death which gives an indication for the date of the armour.

The Stonehenge Visitor Centre's new Collection

on Tuesday, 26 November 2013. Posted in Conservation

As part of their contribution to the English Heritage update of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Wiltshire Conservation Service have been conserving items from collections across the county.
Many of the items chosen for display at the new Stonehenge Visitor centre have previously been conserved; presenting the conservation staff with a range of challenges.


Many items have been sampled; that is sections of material have been removed and sent away for scientific analysis. Such analysis can help to identify the materials and methods used in manufacture, can date the object or help archaeologists and curators to learn what the object was used for. In the past greater amounts of material were required for reliable results to be achieved therefore large areas were damaged and the appearance of the objects dramatically affected. For example the Ox mandible, seen in images 1 & 2, where a large area had previously been removed for analysis dramatically affecting the profile of the bone. For display it was felt that this area should be reconstructed to show the true shape of the mandible.

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