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Department of Archaeology: Archaeological Services

Artefact conservation service

Our conservation service specialises in archaeological artefacts, objects from museum collections, and the research and analysis of artefacts using a wide variety of scientific techniques.

Archaeological artefacts

We conserve archaeological artefacts recovered from excavations on behalf of a wide variety of clients, including archaeological organisations and community groups from across the UK.

The full range of materials is conserved, including iron, copper alloys, jet, ceramics, and organics such as leather, textiles and waterlogged wood. We can help at all stages of the process, including:

  • On-site advice and assistance in the excavation and transport of delicate objects
  • Conservation assessments of artefacts, including the initial cleaning, x-radiography, stabilisation and packaging of archaeological materials, and recommendations for further works as necessary
  • Full investigative conservation, including air abrasion, consolidation, freeze-drying of waterlogged materials, artefact re-assembly and reconstruction, and artefact photography
  • The preparation of objects for display

Artefact analysis

As part of the conservation process, or as part of research into artefacts, we can analyse artefacts using:

  • Energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence (EDXRF)
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Digital x-radiography

These techniques can be used to look at the organic and elemental composition of artefacts and residues. Examples of ways in which it can help include:

  • Microscopic wood and fibre identification
  • Analysis of pigments
  • Gilding application
  • Metals analysis

Museum objects

We also work on behalf of museums and private collectors. We conserve historic objects made from a wide variety of materials including metals, ceramics and anthropological artefacts containing animal hair and feathers, as well as taxidermy specimens and plastics.

Our clients include the Oriental Museum in Durham, whose collections include musical instruments, furniture, lacquer ware, arms and armour, and Beamish Museum, whose collections range from ceramics and furniture to medical equipment.

Other services that we offer include:

  • Conducting condition surveys for collections, identifying the objects that require more immediate conservation work
  • Advice regarding preventive conservation methods including the control of temperature, relative humidity, light levels and pest monitoring
  • Materials testing for display/storage materials and advice on alternative conservation grade materials should the need arise

For further information contact:

Vicky Garlick
Artefact Conservation Service
Department of Archaeology
Durham University
South Road
tel 0191 334 1139
fax 0191 334 1101