Conservator Starts Work At Museum

Conservator, Laura Ratcliffe at work in the museum

The Isles of Scilly Museum has started a special conservation project to improve the condition of some of their most valuable artefacts.

Amanda Martin from the museum says all of their collections were surveyed a couple of years ago and those in need of cleaning or repair identified.

Now conservator Laura Ratcliffe, a specialist in restoring ancient artefacts, has started a two-week project at the museum.

Laura has been working on many of the metal objects including the well-known Nournour collection of 300 Roman brooches.

From Radio Scilly

Laura and Amanda talk about the museum conservation project

Amanda Martin

Laura Ratcliff

She says many of the bronze and copper items, particularly those found underwater, have started to corrode again and if left unchecked, eventually the items “will just get eaten away.”

She added that the damp sea air in Scilly is particularly damaging and accelerates the degradation process.

Laura says the some of the items are extremely delicate, particularly the enamelled items.

She uses a microscope and a set of dental picks to scrape away the corrosion, commonly known as bronze disease.

Laura says the whole area of damage has to be cut away or it will continue to grow. The surface is then treated with a corrosion inhibitor and then sealed with an acrylic resin.

Laura says she has been surprised by some of the object she’s been working on. In particular, she says she came across a heavily corroded Roman brooch which, when cleaned up, revealed a beautiful blue, enamelled bird.

While Laura’s working in Scilly, she’ll be training a number of volunteers at the museum to carry on the work when she leaves.

Amanda says the work isn’t just restricted to the museum either.

A bird-shaped Roman brooch found on Nournour

Laura has been providing advice to the Council on the condition of some of their antiques, particularly the oak chairs and weapons hung on the walls of the Council Chamber at the Old Wesleyan Chapel, which Amanda described as being in “urgent need of attention.”

She says the project has been funded by a LAG grant, and she’s particularly keen to include members of the public.

Laura will be offering free advice to anyone who may have their own antiques that need conserving.

And to coincide with the project, Amanda has arranged for a presentation from the ‘Receiver of the Wreck’, Alison Kentuck.

The talk, entitled ‘Whose Wreck is it Anyway?’ will be on Wednesday March 21st at 3.00 pm in the Museum.

It’ll cover ‘wreck legislation’ which Amanda says is extremely complicated and should be particularly interesting for the many divers resident on the islands.