Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Assessment of a Chimú chiral bird funerary vessel, G.56

This ceramic funerary water vessel is a charming example of Chimú blackware, circa 1000 to 1470 AD. The bottle chamber is formed into two chiral (or mirror image) birds sitting side by side. Its body was mass produced from a mold form and then the heads, strap handle and spout were attached. The object was roughly burnished in a manner that resembles feathers and then reduction fired, resulting in the typical blackware for which the Chimú were so well known. It bottle is fairly small, at only 12 cm tall and weighs only 289.28 g. The fabric of the ceramic consists of small rounded particles, uniformly distributed throughout.  

The massive amounts of bottles produced by the Chimú have affected the significance of individual bottles, however chiral representations of either animals or people do not seem to be extremely common. These funerary items were not desired by the elite as status markers. Specific documents relating to the discovery and exhumation of this bottle are apparently non existent, which greatly impacts its scientific value. It is, however unique within UCL’s ethnography collection and a favorite of many students, so its value as a teaching tool is still fairly high, despite the lack of sufficient provenance.

The bottle has a rounded bottom and cannot sit flat on a table. This poses a risk of fall damage and requires supporting material and a mount. Additional concerns involve the extreme fluctuations of relative humidity within the MCR. A proper housing case will decrease the risks of salt efflorescence and damage from incorporated hygroscopic materials. Additionally, a string attached around the bottle’s strap handle may be causing abrasive wear and should be re-positioned or removed to prevent further losses. In all other respects, the bottle is in a stable state with no signs of friable surfaces or lamination issues. Its charm and stability make it a fantastic candidate for either loan or display.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Public Outreach: The Present and Future of Conservation

Conservation is a complex idea that can be confusing –  if not completely unknown –  to non-heritage professionals. This poster aims to explain what conservation is and why it is important, as well as the consequences of amateur conservation efforts. A contemporary example of public outreach is provided for future education opportunities.

The Reversible Truth 

Reversibility grew as one of the key ethical codes of early conservation and has acted as an aspirational notion in conservation treatment.  However the term is frequently used without clarity and like much of conservation methodology it is largely context-dependent.  The two comparative case studies demonstrate how reversibility can only be an appropriate notion in certain treatment methods and in most cases unattainable, due to material structure that can limit the removal of treatments and contextual information.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Conserving Frescos: Detrimental Change Due to Moisture

Moisture has been one of the leading causes of deterioration for fresco wall paintings, causing them to fall apart to the point where their meaning becomes lost. Many frescos contain highly symbolic moral or social messages that reflect the attitudes and perspectives of the time of their creation, and thus contribute to art, history, sociology, and teaching. The hope for these remarkable works of art is to reduce the need for large-scale interventions and ensure sustainable conservation solutions so they can remain in the context of their building or site, preserving the messages and artistic and technical merit of the heritage that created it. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Looted objects? NO CONSERVATION!

Abstract: Although reasons for both "treating" or "not treating" looted artifacts may be compelling, most conservators agree that conserving looted objects may help the looting of archaeological sites. From a broad point of view, we could say that conservators are responsible not only for individual objects but for all objects, archaeological sites, histories and civilizations. Professional ethics indicate that conservators should try to help the fight against looting.


As conservation remains mostly unknown to the general public, it is important to tackle the problem from various angles. This poster illustrates how conservators can collaborate with schools to establish the foundations of a diverse network that would allow more awareness towards cultural heritage conservation in a sustainable and inexpensive way.

Approaches to conservation practice and theory

The poster is about frameworks and guidance practice. It asks questions to foster discussion between attendees at a conference. It is intended to be mildly provocative. The choice of images relates to discussion within the accompanying essay regarding cleaning, functionality, in-painting and subjectivity. Five of the six images have an emphasis on texture. The intention is to suggest the pleasure in the materiality of things that conservators have. With thanks to the British Museum and Tate.

Outside the comfort zone: The social context of conservation and its influence on decision-making.

Most heritage conservators recognise that their practice is not neutral to differing ideologies in society. In this poster, I explore why conservation decisions vary in different social contexts by applying a value-based model system to a case study of the drastic changes made to a Prussian Palace in Communist- and Post-Communist Poland. This illustrates some contextual issues that affected decision-making in this specific case, and may assist conservators in analysing how cultural circumstances shape priorities in the care of cultural heritage.

What's Gone Is Forever Gone: The Role of Conservation Treatment in Looted Antiquities

This poster explores how conservators treat looted objects by making a comparison with the ideal conservation process. Although looted objects may seem to be intact in shape and form, there is something important missing: the context, the history, and the associated values. I chose the case of Kanakaria mosaics to demonstrate a restoration treatment focused solely on economic value.
I also want to thank Renata F Peters, Kathryn Walker Tubb and Laura Chaillie for their support and advise.

Deliberate Damage of Cultural Heritage in Conflict: The Bamiyan Buddhas

Deliberate damage to cultural heritage for symbolic purposes during times of conflict has a long history, but international frameworks for preventing it have been slow to develop.  The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in 2001 highlights some of the problems facing conservation of conflict damage, including the important meaning of the damage itself and the difficulty of creating general international laws that can conform to the case-by-case nature of heritage.

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