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12 August 2016

Farewell from the Conservation Team!

With the conservation programme for the Staffordshire Hoard coming to an end, the team of Staffordshire Hoard dedicated conservators at Birmingham are also departing. So many different conservators, students, professionals and volunteers have participated in the programme since it began, and many thanks are due to all who’ve worked so hard on the project and shared their experiences on this blog over the years.

Here are some final thoughts from Kayleigh and Lizzie. We wish them all the best with new challenges!

(it’s not the end of the blog though, we’ll keep bringing you research updates over the coming months…)

Farewell… from Kayleigh

It’s been more than 15 months since I first started working as a conservator on the Staffordshire Hoard Project and what a joy and an experience it has been to be involved! As the conservation programme comes to an end, I will be sorry to leave the West Midlands and the lovely people who I have worked with here over the past months.

I first was involved with the Staffordshire Hoard Project on a professional placement during Stage 1 and therefore it has been a pleasure to see how far the research work has fully progressed through to the end of the Stage 2 conservation programme. There have been many delightful objects which I have been lucky enough to work on. For example the rare silver gilt pommels which have developed over a long period of time, each to become something truly unique.

Silver gilt pommel © Birmingham Museums Trust

I think my favourite thing to work on has been the die impressed sheet which forms panels and bands to decorate different objects. The challenge lay in developing my eyesight and brain to recognise different features of Anglo-Saxon iconography, so that the separated fragments could become reunited again. I also had the opportunity to develop my manual dexterity skills after working with such tiny and delicate fragments of sheet metal.

Band of die-impressed sheet © Birmingham Museums Trust

The biggest surprise of the project was what happened in 2016… The project team had thought they had a clear idea of all the objects represented in the hoard until a concentrated effort to re-assemble sections of the many plain silver-gilt sheet fragments, resulted in an entirely new object being discovered.  This was the ultimate antiquity jigsaw! Persistence and help from an eager volunteer led to many of the small fragments becoming two halves of a silver gilt bracket, possibly used to mount a processional cross. Although not the most attractive object, it is still impressive because it represents an object previously not found in Anglo-Saxon archaeological deposits.

The mysterious silver gilt bracket © Birmingham Museums Trust

I am now looking forward to the point when all our work is available to the public on the open access database and in the final publication. It will be exciting to find out what people think of it all and how they will use the information in the future to interpret the Staffordshire Hoard.

The research team are still busy preparing the final publication, but for me it is time to go back to the North East. I have been very fortunate to secure a one year part time post in conservation at the Bowes Museum in County Durham. Please come visit it if you are in the area.

Kayleigh Fuller-  Staffordshire Hoard Conservator

… and Lizzie

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as conservator on the Staffordshire Hoard project for the past year and a half. As the project comes to an end I have had chance to reflect on the achievements and discoveries I have experienced along the way.

Before joining the project I was familiar with the Hoard but being able to handle and conserve these objects on a daily basis made me appreciate the objects on a whole new level. Cleaning the objects under the microscope and seeing the intricate filigree wire, the tiny individually cut garnets, as well as cut marks and wear marks being revealed really brought the objects to life. One of my favourite objects, which really exemplifies this is this cloisonné and filigree strip mount:

Cloisonne mount with inserted panels © Birmingham Museums Trust

I worked with specialist Chris Fern to reunite the serpent panels into their original mounts, then I readhered them into position – it was so rewarding to see the piece looking more as it was originally intended. To me, the reconstruction stage was the most enjoyable part of the process – seeing recognisable objects being revealed from a mass of fragments put the Hoard into context.

I’ve also really enjoyed the public engagement element of the project. Seeing the awe on people’s faces on the behind the scenes hoard conservation tours, when they get to see the objects close up has been great. Conservation has been a huge part of the Staffordshire Hoard project and it’s been brilliant to showcase its role to the general public and promote the profession. The children’s events we have run are always really fun – I’ve never seen a better way to keep kids quiet than by giving them a microscope and a lump of soil!

Lizzie instructing the conservators of the future!

Being part of such a huge multi-disciplinary project has been a great privilege – working with my conservation colleagues Pieta Greaves and Kayleigh Fuller, as well as specialists such as Chris Fern and George Speake who have opened my eyes to the Anglo-Saxon world.  I have never worked on a project with such emphasis on collaboration and shared knowledge so this has been eye-opening.

I have had a brilliant one and a half years working on the Project, my only regret was not winning the Hoard bake off with my ‘attempt’ at the Pectoral Cross….

Now the Project is over I will return to my role as Objects Conservator at Birmingham Museums Trust, so I will still be here to look after the Hoard, along with the rest of the 800,000+ objects in the collection!

Lizzie Miller- Staffordshire Hoard Conservator

Lizzie, Kayleigh, Pieta and colleagues enjoying the recent Festival of Archaeology…