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13 September 2013

Professional Placement by Kayleigh Fuller

Hello, my name is Kayleigh Fuller, I’m currently the technician for an Art Conservation Masters programme in the UK, and I just had the absolute delight of undertaking a two week professional placement with the Staffordshire Hoard Team.

It’s been about a year since I had the opportunity to work on objects after graduating from my Masters in Conservation at Durham University. I’ve also just recently taken up a course in jewellery silversmithing with Teesside Silversmith; therefore I jumped at the opportunity to do a practical conservation placement with the hoard when it was advertised.

I have come onto the project towards the end of the overall fine investigative cleaning of the finds, but there were still some beautiful artefacts to work on.

When I was given my first item, I hadn’t yet had a chance to have a good look at the hoard artefacts on display in the museum – I was instantly astounded by the actual size when thinking back to some of the photographs I had seen. When you look at the items under the microscope, it’s amazing how much more detail there is to them. I’m now even more in complete awe of the fine skill of the Anglo-Saxon goldsmith for working on such a small scale.

K383 – Part of a gold sword hilt collar before conservation (black and white scale in 10mm increments).

Close up of K383 with cloisonné garnet geometric design, before conservation.

Section of K383 after full cleaning.

Section of K383 after full cleaning. Image shows cell with remaining copper salt paste and half soil with impression of the foil fragment that had dislodged.

The difficulty in the final cleaning stage of conservation is that some items are fairly unstable after being in the burial environment. Garnets and foil tend to be loose and are likely to dislodge from their setting. Broken edges have such thin and fragile areas that you have to be extra gentle and apply no pressure to the object whilst cleaning them.

The best thing about conserving items from the hoard had to be the little surprises that appeared out of nowhere. After beginning to remove the soil from the middle of K1001, I found a tiny flake of sheet silver with what looks like an intentional indentation.

K1001 – Gold sword hilt fitting with cloisonné garnet geometric design before the second stage of conservation.

K1001 – Soil block with a tiny flake of sheet silver.

K1001 – Silver metal flake from middle soil lump.

After removing the dirt from the back of a gold hilt plate fitting (K388), a copper alloy pin was found still in its original hole. Below the soil in the front space of the cell, the intact full head of the pin was discovered.

K388 – Hilt plate fitting with cloisonné garnet geometric design, before conservation.

K388 – After conservation with close up of the copper alloy pin.

K388 – Close up of the copper alloy pin in the cell.

I probably could go on, but I feel that this is a good point to finish. Thank you so much to the Staffordshire Hoard Team for having me for the past two weeks!

Now it’s time to look forward to silversmithing class starting again so I can improve my attempts to match my skill to the above items (…well it’s definitely going to take me quite a few years with all the polishing you have to do!)

Image by ‘Teesside Silversmith’.

Kayleigh Fuller,
Professional Placement