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30 August 2013

Conservation in the BMAG galleries

Over four days the conservation team, Hoard Conservators Deborah Magnoler, Cym Storey, Cardiff student Chi-Chun Lin, Hoard Conservation Project Manager Pieta Greaves ACR and Collections Care Officer Deborah Cane ACR, have been in the Birmingham Museum gallery demonstrating the conservation process on the newly discovered objects of the Hoard.  The first step of the event was relocating the conservation lab up into the galleries to give a real behind the scenes experience; we were now ready to let in the visitors.

The conservation lab set-up in the Activity Zone

Image1. The conservation set-up ready for the demonstrations

We had some fabulous questions and discussions about the conservation and the hoard. Everyone was very interested to see the thorns in action and experience the excitement of objects being revealed after more than 1400 years. Popular discussions featured the numerous theories surrounding the hoard and the astonishing technicality of the Anglo-Saxon craftsmen.

Image 2. Pieta discussing the object and conservation

Conservation techniques such as X-ray were able to be shown and demonstrated. These x-ray techniques are especially important when the object is encased in soils and its true form cannot be seen.

Image 3. This x-ray image was taken using our new GE digital x-ray machine, it has been invaluable in identifying objects under the soil prior to conservation but has also allowed us to look at how they were constructed.

Image 4. Deb discussing how she is using the x-ray image to reveal the hilt plate from the soil.

This object, identified as a hilt plate, was cleaned under the microscope with thorns and Industrialized Methylated Spirits (IMS). (For a more illustrated description of the process you can see Natalie’s Cleaning the Staffordshire Hoard blog).

Image 5. Object before conservation

Image 6. Object after conservation.

There were demonstrations of how the thorns are used in the conservation such as on this delicate scroll-type filigree and garnet decorated cross.

Image 7. Chi Chun discussing the thorns and giving visitors a closer look.

Close up of scroll-type filigree and garnet decorated cross

Image 8. Close up of scroll-type filigree and garnet decorated cross

And with the help of our Keyence microscope visitors were able to see the intricate details of a small hilt collar. Even though very small, we are able to see two different types of wire (beaded and twisted) which have been soldered onto a gold back plate to create this delicate design.

Image 9. Intricate design on hilt collar.

To see some of the video footage of the event please see the video page.

A big thank you to everyone who came along, it’s always a pleasure to share our knowledge and experience on a subject that we are passionate about.

Further behind the scenes tours are scheduled for each month, you can find details on the Birmingham Museum Website.

Pieta Greaves ACR
Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Project Manager