This morning, Kate, Qin and I helped Susan clean the casts of Turkish friezes made in the Victorian age. Friezes are the kind of thing used as decoration to go around temples; usually incorporating bas-reliefs. Although of uncertain origin, the museum’s casts incorporate some wonderful depictuions of ancient characters. It was interesting how we were now trying to conserve these casts; as they’d once been earmarked for disposal (in the 1970s I believe). Thanks to the efforts of former head of Archaeology at the musuem, John Pragg, they were thakfully saved and are now possibly going to be redisplayed as part of the new ‘Ancient Worlds’ gallery opening in October.
The frieze that I was working on depicted a half-bird half-person character carrying what looked like a baby. I was wondering if this was were the idea of the stork delivering new babies came from? They were certainly portrayed as models of parental devotion in Ancient Greek mythology.
Anyway, we used skewers topped with cotton wool for the cleaning process; and cleaned using a mixture of water and IMS (Industrial methylated spirit) so that the liquid evaporated. It was important to keep rolling the skewer so that the dirt was removed rather than just moved around (a tip that I’m sure is equally applicable to any imminent spring clean being undertaken!)
It was nice to do something different; we were amazed at how much progress we had made in the cleaning of the friezes. Improving my conservation skills is something that I’m particulalry interested in doing during this traineeship, so this was a great opportunity for me.