Dissertation Proposal



Mass-conservationof Archaeological Iron Artefacts

ACase Study of V&ampA Museum

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Thisdissertation proposal aims at investigating the benefits andconsequences of mass conservation of Iron artefacts at the V&ampAMuseum. In doing so, a background study shall be established andliterature review developed. There are numerous occasions when therehave been few or no individuals under the conservation departments atthe museum. Owing to this condition there has been a large amount ofun-conserved artefacts in the museum which needs to be conserved. Thesame condition has affected other artefacts but this researchproposal will focus on the condition of iron and possibility ofcarrying out mass conservation. In carrying out the research, thecondition of artefacts that were recently excavated (1970s) wereevaluated and information fed in a database. Through, a sample willbe drawn from which information regarding such recent andun-conserved artefacts shall be established. The proposal aims atcarrying out no conservation given that it is theoretical. Thecharacteristics, properties and general facts about iron and itscorrosion is advanced. The methods used to conserve Iron in Britainand Europe as a whole are reviewed so as to establish the bestmethods that are applicable for mass conservation. Hence, theproposal shall seek to establish the method that would be used toincrease the productivity of conservation of Iron at V&ampA Museumwithin the defining parameters of low funding and few or noconservators in the country. The thesis will come up withdiscussions, reach a conclusion and recommend the setup ofmass-conservation to be used for the Museum.


Atthe beginning of summer 2013, I was fortunate to be part of a teamthat was mandated carry out re-organization of the V&ampAarchaeological storage. Most interesting part was the conservation ofthe iron artefacts that had been excavated in large scale in the1970s after the world war. Some of these artefacts had been conservedthough ours was to focus on the un-conserved ones. In carrying outthe process, we used scapels, ethanol and tannic acid for cleaningand conserving the artefacts. This process was tedious, inefficient,time consuming for a project of such large magnitude. Through thismethod, there were a number of unconserved artefacts thus creating abacklog, a condition that is worsened by the fact that there are twoarchaeological conservators at the museum.

Movedby the situation at hand, I felt that it could be improved upon andmore efficient method be adopted. In the fall 2013, I had a practicalinternship at The National Maritime Museum with a team that wasworking on a mass conservation project. The skills and experiencethat I gained enabled me to know how best artefacts could be treatedefficiently and conserved than it was done at the V&ampA Museum.Hence, mass-conservation is best for the case of V&ampA given thatthere are large amounts of artefacts that need conservation and atthe same time there are only two conservators. The desire to get anefficient method which is cost-effective would necessitateconservation and improve V&ampA Museum.


Thecore objectives of this study are listed as follows

  1. To increase productivity at the conservation department

  2. To find out the types of damage that the iron artefacts suffer from

  3. To identify the methods best suited for mass-conservation of iron


Caringfor Metals

Metalhas been utilized broadly by a large number of cultures all throughhistory. On the off chance that you think your object has noteworthyfiscal quality, or it has recorded, stylish or nostalgic worth andyou wish to pass it on to future eras, consider having it esteemed,safeguarded and professionally saved.

Allmetals, except for 24 carat gold, endure the impacts of corrosion.Corrosion is the procedure by which a metal is bit by bit harmed by acompound response. The consequence of the methodology is a corrosionitem which takes different structures. Gentle corrosion willstructure a corrosion item which causes the metal to seem dull orchange the shade of the surface. More forceful corrosion courses ofaction will result in arrangement of fine dry layers or spots tostructure at first glance.

CommonProblem with Metals

Corrosionitems can be expected, in which case terms like patina and oxidationare utilized – or not planned e.g. stain, rust or verdigris.Generally, if the corrosion items are sparkling and solidly appendedthey do not represent problem at hand. The more fine, flaky ordelicate the corrosion items, the more dynamic the corrosion process,and the all the more desperately treatment is needed. In greatconditions, metal objects can make due with little change for aconsiderable length of time – in poor conditions they can beunsalvageably harmed or pulverized inside a matter of years.

Somecorrosion item layers offer a level of protection against furthercorrosion (`passivating layers`), e.g. dark stain on iron, whilstothers do not, for example. orange rust on iron or dark stain onsilver. Check your metal things for indications of corrosionroutinely, in a perfect world when tidying or cleaning. No corrosionis totally inert – actually passivating layers, which back off thecorrosion process.


Alarge number of artefacts (90%) from excavations have been conserved(Seal, 2005). These antiques are by and large in preferred conditionover the ones that had not been conserved however no distinctconclusions can be made because of the little specimen size. Thegreater part of the ancient rarities that had been dealt with hadbeen covered with wax, and some had been covered with a varnish (12%of conserved antiquities) (Seal, 2005).

Thereare no records of past treatments accessible for antiquities fromlate unearthings and Mark Twain, a conservator who worked at theNational Museum from 1993 to 2010 said that judging from the presenceof the curios (thick layers of wax and just about no cleaning) andtheir marking that they were in all likelihood conserved preceding1983. She said that Baten Ray, a savant at the National Museum from1951 to 1977, had treated numerous antiquities with paraffin wax(Ásgeirsdóttir 2012).

Gestssonhad examined chemical designing in Copenhagen, however had notcompleted his degree (Björnsson 1984, p. 7). It is sensible toexpect that he had some learning of chemistry to support him in theconserving of the relics. In his compatibility from 1971 Gestssonexpresses that at that point the greater part of the iron ancientrarities in the exhibition hall had been conserved by washing them infaucet water or refined water and hence bubbled in paraffin wax. Henotes that this system is by and large considered deficient forconservation, as the water does not expel the greater part of thechlorides from the consumption layers. Then again, Gestsson acceptedthat this technique was attractive for the V&ampA Museum, as thestorage`s RH was beneath 40% (Gestsson 1971, p. 2). Paraffin waxpicked up much prominence in the 1960`s after the conservator HaroldPlenderleith pushed its utilization and guaranteed that it didn`tleave a sticky surface and was not difficult to evacuate (Jaeger2008, p.36)

Corrosionof Iron

Ironis a chemical component with the symbol Fe, determined structure theLatin word ferrum. Iron is a typical component in nature and wasconcentrated from swamp iron or soil high in iron oxide for thegeneration of iron ancient rarities. Iron is a hard, plastic andmalleable metal that can be handled and structured in strengthenedcondition. Immaculate iron has a high softening temperature, around1535°c and a thickness of 7.9 g/cm3 (Sokhan 2003, p. 18).

Allancient iron curios found in Europe are made of wrought iron. Wroughtiron contains short of what 0.5% carbon and has distinctive amountsof slag, phosphorus and sulfur (Sokhan 2003, p. 14). The prefix&quotwrought&quot is an early English word, signifying `lived up toexpectations`, as in iron worked in a smithy (Sörenson 2003, p.1230). Steel is attained by expanding the iron`s carbon substance toaround 1%. Iron containing 2% or more carbon is called solid metaland is truly weak because of its high carbon content. In this mannerit can`t be framed like wrought iron or steel, yet is thrown intomolds (Sokhan 2003, p. 21)


Thisexploration will take after a deductive thinking as proposed byCreswell (2003) on the grounds that it will be an endeavor to getconclusions from something that is known to be genuine, and anexplanatory methodology where qualitative and quantitativeexamination routines will be utilized. An explanatory configurationmethodology will guarantee the variables included in the exploration,business and innovative components are connected. This explorationwill depend on both primary and secondary information gatheringsystems.

Thequalitative system will be utilized to neglect the results of theexamination hypothesis and create further study to test and help theexploration. As to the quantitative methodology, up close andpersonal interview will be the primary apparatus of examination.Vis-à-vis interview is favored because of their legitimacy anddependability. The face to face interview will be straightforward andboth open so as to enable high reaction rate and get more data fromthe clients. Qualitative interviews will be utilized to check andilluminate the information gathered (Creswell, 2003)

Primarydata will be available from through the face-to-face interviews andstudy of artefacts samples the study sample size will be 30artefacts and a minimum of 20 will be sampled, drawn from excavationsof artefacts that are stored in V&ampA. Whereas secondary data shallbe collected from the Internet, journals, data already collected,publications such as company reports, textbooks, newspaper articles,and information from the government sources.


Incarrying out analysis, the perception of the workers at the Museumwill be taken into consideration as well as the samples. With thehelp of the appropriate software like Microsoft Excel will be used topresent the quantitative data. Some common statistical approachesused will be mean and standard deviation. To analyse organizationalculture and technological resources on an e-business adoption, acluster analysis will be used to group organizational traits.

However,the tool that would be used to analyse the qualitative data is yet tofinalize at this moment. There are several tools, which are availableas the choice to analyse the qualitative data which mainly dividedinto two ways either using computer software as an aid or the manualmethod without computer aid. This decision may be clearer in thelater stage of the research.

Problemsor Opportunities / Limitations That Might Arise

Someof the challenges are discussed are, firstly lack of scientifictraining in the method of research turned out to be one of thegreatest impediments to the process of research. Secondly, there wasconstrained of time as research time was limited, consequently,insufficient interaction with the interviewees during the interviewand ultimately getting less information. Thirdly, unavailability ofpublished data from government and other agencies relating to thetopic of study was observed. Finally, it was also observed that therewas a significance variance in the little data published from theagencies.

Theresearch process showed there are more research areas that have notbeen explored in the field, thus room for improvement on worksalready done.

Listof References

Creswell,J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixedmethod approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. RetrievedDecember 11, 2014 from&lthttp://books.google.com.my/books?hl=en&amplr=&ampid=F8BFOM8DCKoC&ampoi=fnd&amppg=PA209&ampdq=Creswell,+J.+W.+%282003%29.+Research+design:+Qualitative,+quantitative,+and+mixed+method+approaches.+Thousand+Oaks,+CA:+Sage+Publications.&ampots=gTgSuzvuRe&ampsig=0zj1Y7bc4VdjFEsOyBtbGm33pSw&ampredir_esc=y#v=onepage&ampq&ampf=false&gt

Gestsson,G. (1962). Spjót frá Kotmúla í Fljótshlí!. Árbók Hinsíslenzka fornleifafélags, 59. árg., pp. 72-81.

Hamilton,D. L. (1999). Methods of Conserving Archaeological Material fromUnderwater Sites. Anthropology 605, Conservation of ArchaeologicalResources I. Department of Anthropology, Texas A&ampM College Station, Texas.

Mathias,C. (1993). Developments in Archaeological Conservation: A Perspectivefrom Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador Studies,Volume 9, issue 2, pp. 311-327.

Mathias,C., Ramsdale, K., Nixon, D. (2004). Saving archaeological iron usingthe Revolutionary Preservation System. In Ashton, J. and Hallam, D.(eds.). Metal 2004, Proceedings of the Int. Conference on MetalsConservation, Canberra, Australia, 4-8 October 2004, pp. 28-42.

Seal,A. (1995). The Victoria and Albert Museum and electronic imagebanks:image conversion and user reactions. Program: electronic library andinformation systems, 29(4), 379-395.

Sokhan,M., Gaspar, P., McPhail, D. S., Cummings, A., Cornish, L., Pullen,D., … &amp Merkel, J. F. (2003). Initial results on laser cleaningat the Victoria &amp Albert Museum, Natural History Museum and TateGallery. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 4, 230-236.

Turgoose,S. (1982). Post excavation changes in iron antiquities. Studies inConservation, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 97-101.

Turgoose,S. (1985). The corrosion of archaeological iron during burial andtreatment in Studies in Conservation, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 13-18.