Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne

Conservation matters in wales 2010
December 17, 2010, 2:52 pm
Filed under: events

As promised last week here is a short review on the small conference held at the Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures as was sat right at the front and was listening intently to everyone (honest…), but I did manage to steal one picture from Nigel Blackamore’s Twitter (also a nice comment about CSI: too, thanks!).

Throughout the day there were 7 presentations in total from a range of speakers, including private and museum conservators, students and consultants.  The theme of the talks centred around ‘added value’ in conservation.  Hopefully I can remember some bits from each of these…

Place and Chips: reconstructing a sketchbook – but how do we display it? – Emily O’Reilly, National Museum Wales

The first talk of the day was from Emily O’Reilly of National Museum Wales (NMW).  The talk concerned sketches drawn by the artist Francis Place on a trip to Wales, their conservation, and the transfer of the drawings to a digital database.

Place and chips – get it?

Place = fish

Chips = computer chips

She’s here all week!  The presentation was very interesting and it was good to see the research involved in working on such objects.  The images will be put on Rhagor, the NMW website for collections and the stories behind them, in the near future, if they’re not already on there – well worth having a look.

A Very Odd Dice: Reconstructing a Roman Bone Dice – David Pearson, Cardiff University

Second up was David Pearson, a recent graduate from the BSc conservation course at Cardiff.  He was speaking about a Roman bone dice he conserved and the challenges he faced when working on the object.

The dice had come from the Newport Museum and had been subject to extensive damage when ‘yoofs’ had interfered with the display case a few years ago.  David’s job was to readhere and gap-fill the dice, but he faced a number of dilemmas in the choice of materials.  The presentation showed his thought process and testing methods for deciding on the materials to be used.  Perhaps a conservation first, he did NOT use Paraloid B-72!

Why the title?  The faces of the dice that were complete were the odd faces.

The Dilemmas of a Book Conservator – Juliet Clay, Private Conservator and Cardiff University

The presentation from Juliet Clay showed the numerous dilemmas that a book conservator faces.  She used examples from her own work as a freelance conservator to talk about the traditional techniques that she uses and the types of damage encountered when conserving old books.  It was interesting to hear the conservators approach in relation to what the client desires.

CSI: Sittingbourne – The Value of Volunteers – Cardiff University

At midday it was me.  I shan’t go into details about the talk a great deal, as all the information can be found on this blog, but I spoke about how using volunteers can enhance what can be achieved when working on objects of this nature and the potential benefits of such projects to conservation in the future.  I also went into the impact that the project has had within the local community and the range of extra opportunities that we can get with projects of this kind.

Overall, I think it went alright (…enthusiastic as usual you’ll see!).  The talk was well received and the response was really positive.  Hopefully I managed to give everyone credit and show how successful everything has been over the past 16 months.  I dressed up all smart as well, what a good boy.


Lunch is worthy of a mention here – everyone seems to bang on about how good the food is at the Cynon Valley Museum is and I can confirm that it did live up to the hype.  Worth a visit for this, and there’s a good social history collection there as well!

Conservators, Artists, Damage and Value – Peter David, Ceramics Conservator

I’ve heard Peter David speak previously about a slipware plate that he conserved, something that was really interesting.  This presentation was no different.  He talked about the values placed on different objects and demonstrated how the significance of the same object can be altered by a range of factors and over a period of time.  The presentation gave no answers, as he said himself, but it highlighted a number of questions that conservators should be asking in the future where more modern objects are concerned.

CyMAL’s Significance Model for Assessing Collections – Sarah Paul, CyMAL

Sarah spoke of the proposed plans for introducing a significance model for museum collections in Wales.  The aim is not to focus basing significance solely on what an object is worth in monetary terms, but rather on its cultural significance and value to the public.  Some museums have already adopted strategies like this, but this guideline will perhaps aid other museums in the future.

Another step towards professionalism? Conservation Standards – David Leigh, Consultant

David Leigh spoke about the value of developing standards in conservation.  It’s been a subject that seems to have been developed a lot more over the last few years within the profession and it is something that will surely help and make the profession more organised and allow us to work towards similar goals.  The subject is going to be more relevant in the years to come so it is  worthwhile subject, even if it isn’t the most interesting.

Overall, the day was really well organised and the range of topics was really interesting.  The museum, and Heather Perry, organised a good day – the conference was professional, but at the same time relaxed.  The museum is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area as well.  As my first conference where I have spoken, it was a nice one to start at and I’m pleased, and maybe quite surprised, that it went so smoothly.  Thanks to Dana and everyone else involved with CSI: so far and Happy Christmas!


One week to go…
December 8, 2010, 5:51 am
Filed under: news

Just one week to go until the most important conservation conference of the year… kind of.

‘CSI: Sittingbourne – The Value of Volunteers’ is to be presented at the Conservation Matters in Wales conference, ‘Conservation: Added Value’, at the Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery in Aberdare, South Wales.  This is a one day conference organised by National Museum Wales, The Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales and Cardiff University.

This will hopefully help to introduce some more people to the project who may not know about it.  It will also be my first conference that I have spoken at.  I don’t think imagining the audience naked will help with the nerves, but I’ll give it a go…



I shall post some photos and give a review next week as to how everything went and what the other presentations were about.

Another benefit of volunteers
November 23, 2010, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Community, news

This is just to notify anyone who doesn’t know about the exciting volunteer project at the Museum of London and a brief article featured in this month’s ICON News (November 2010 – issue 31).

The museum has run a number of volunteer programmes during the past 8 years since its archive (LAARC) opened to the public in 2002.  The current scheme, VIP (Volunteer Inclusion Programme), which has been funded by Renaissance London, has been running since 2008.  However, the aim of all the programmes has been to help improve accessibility to the archives by employing the help of volunteers who  update storage, such as repackaging, and documentation.  The added values and benefits of this approach have been those of teaching new skills, engaging the public, and introducing conservation to a new generation, as well as simply completing the work much faster.

Museum of London

From October to December 2010 (OK, October has passed and this post is a bit behind!) the volunteer programme will be on display in the Museum galleries.  VIP graduates will be there to interact with the public to explain the work involved in repackaging and documentation of collections.

As CSI: Sittingbourne is not open at the moment then you might like to pay a visit and have a look at this event instead, as well as the new galleries that opened a few months ago.  The archaeological collections officers are supervising hour long sessions at the Clore Learning Centre in addition to the gallery demonstrations.  Activities take place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays until 10th December.

For more information about this event or any of the other volunteer programmes have a look at the links below.

What’s on at the Museum of London

Working life of Museum of London

Volunteer Inclusion Programme

Happy birthday x-rays!
November 8, 2010, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Conservation, news

Seeing the Google doodle today I see that x-rays are 115 years old today.  Happy birthday x-rays!

Google doodle celebrating 115 years of x-rays

X-rays can be really useful for conservators working with most any type of material, but particularly archaeological finds, and they have been used extensively during the work in the CSI: lab.  You can read more about the use of x-rays in an earlier post.  This post, however, is a gallery of just some of the x-rays that have been taken for objects in the lab – most are swords.

Sword from grave 158 with copper alloy ring and knife fragment

X-ray of block-lift containing a sword and knife

X-ray of block-lifted sword containing an interestingly detailed silver buckle and pattern welded blade

Middle of a sword from grave 182

Tip of the sword from grave 182


X-ray image of Anglo-Saxon brooches and buckle

Archaeologists are baffled by this x-ray

OK, the last one isn’t one of ours, but it’s pretty cool.

If you want to find out more about x-rays have a look at the links below.

English Heritage Guidelines on the X-radiography of archaeological metalwork

Wikipedia x-rays

Also, kind of related to x-rays and bones (…well bones at least), is Paul Evans’ blog ‘Osteography‘.  I noticed this advertised in the corridor at university and it appears to be quite interesting, so well worth having a look at.  Have a look also at his earlier project, ‘Origin 09‘.

click to enlarge


more pictures
November 4, 2010, 10:15 pm
Filed under: People

Just a few more pictures from before.  I am not David Bailey, so please forgive the quality – at least my finger isn’t over the lens though, hey?

Detail of the end of the sword handle

Strap decoration

Sword fittings

Replica of the great gold buckle from Sutton Hoo


Detail of sword sheath

Also, a link to Steve Pollington’s web page and The English Companions.  These are also in the new ‘Links’ section, along with some other sites that might be of interest.  If anyone finds any more interesting web pages then let me know and I’ll add them.

Opening times
November 3, 2010, 5:41 pm
Filed under: news

We will only be open on Fridays & Saturdays until further notice, but definitely through November 2010.  We’d like to apologise for anyone planning to visit at different times.

surprise visit
October 27, 2010, 8:51 pm
Filed under: People
Sorry this post is a bit late in coming!

A few months ago I picked up an incoming link from Da Engliscan Gesiðas (The English Companions) Gegaderung discussion forum and visited it to see why it had linked from there.  Some of the members had found out about CSI: Sittingbourne and were debating what the ‘mystery object’ could be.  I contributed a bit to the discussion and visited back occasionally.  Fast-forward to September 2010 (hark at me!), and we can finally put a couple of faces to the names of members on the site.

So, we’d really like to thank Steve Pollington and King Rædwald for coming all the way from Essex to have a look at the exhibition and lab.  It was great that you came and made the effort, especially the fact that you bought along the replica sword and other objects.  They even bought along the Venerable Bede…

Pattern welded replica sword

Replica of a piece from the Staffordshire Hoard

What our swords might have looked like

Replica of the Sutton Hoo purse

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..The The sword in particular was excellent – it came as a surprise how light it actually was.  Also, the scabbard and decoration was quite nice, and gave us a good idea of what some of our objects might have looked like before they ended up with us.  The replicas from Sutton Hoo were brilliant as well, obviously.

Janet modelling the replica sword

I really hope someone has been in touch with you about working with us at some point.  It was very interesting and I’m sure there are a lot more people that would think the same.

Many thanks again!