I was lucky enough to spend part of my summer placement in the Museum of London. A brilliant museum in the heart of the city, about the city. My largest body of work, and most substantial project, was to prepare the objects for the next Looking for Londoners exhibition: Delivering the Past.
All of the objects featured were excavated in 1975 at the site of the General Post Office at Newgate Street. This site provided a wonderful range of materials from a range of dates. The exhibition was created by Adam Corsini using visual aids to bring the excavation process to life.
My involvement came about once the planning was complete, in the final few weeks before the exhibition was installed. At first glance it seemed like a huge task, however as I processed the objects most were only in need of a light surface clean using a soft brush.
The most common required treatment was adhesion; in all examples this was carried out with Paraloid B72 applied from the HMG tube (40% in acetone) . Some of these were simpler than others.
I was very excited to work on the Canis Skull. The object was received complete, but mechanically unstable. Several parts of the skull were loose to the touch; this included the teeth, and zygomatic arch below the eye socket. Paraloid B72 was applied to the teeth to secure them in place. Only a small amount was required and this treatment will be easily reversible. To stabilise the arch a piece of nylon gossamer tissue was adhered to the interior of the arch using 20% Paraloid B72. Aside from adding a shine to the surface the tissue cannot be seen at all, maintaining the objects aesthetic and research value.
My largest and most impressive object of the exhibition was the Roman moratorium bowl. Initially it was only thought that I would need to dismantle and re-adhere the large piece. Over the years in storage this piece had slipped out of place, and the much of join had simply come away. As I took the rest of the join down I became aware of how low quality the rest of the joins were. I then decided to dismantle the bowl.
As an alternative to the task of slowly taking the bowl down in solvents I was introduced to the magic that is the hot water bath. This is not something I had considered, and comes from my colleagues’ archaeology backgrounds. It took just over a day; however, it was a very successful process. It caused the adhesive to swell and naturally separate from the ceramic. It could then be peeled away, leaving the exposed joins free of residue adhesive.
Once in pieces I was presented with the task of re-adhering. I am familiar with using sand boxes to support objects during treatment, however they can be messy and are prone to creating dust. To avoid this problem the museum have adopted the use of acrylic gravel. Chemically inert and physically stable it provides a cleaner option. Through the steady building of pieces with Paraloid B72 the moratorium came back to life. Although, not dramatically different, the ceramic looks much better than before.
It was a wonderful month, and I would like to thank my supervisor Helen Ganiaris for the opportunities and support during my time there.