Past events

Summaries of recent events and seminars

The Icon Archaeology Group runs a varied programme of conferences, seminars and events in a variety of locations. 

Conservation of a Bronze Age Trevisker Urn. The challenges of conserving a large and fragile ceramic vessel (April 2023)

In this online presentation, Kate Berlewen (archaeological and museum conservator) and Sarah Klopf ACR (senior conservator) at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), and postgraduate student Mathilde Van Dalen shared their investigation and conservation approach to this archaeologically significant find. The urn was cleaned and stabilised at the conservation labs of the RAMM in 2022 and is currently undergoing the process of deposition with RAMM. It was found remarkably intact, but its size posed challenges during conservation due to the weight of the object and the extensive cracking within the body.

Investigative conservation of a concreted chest containing sabre blades from the Rooswijk shipwreck (February 2023)

On 22 February 2023, Historic England conservators Angela Middleton, Carola Del Mese and Heather Stewart, gave a presentation on a group of exciting finds from the Rooswijk, an 18th century vessel which had sunk near Ramsgate, Kent, UK. The Rooswijk is currently on the Heritage At Risk register and an international collaboration between the Netherlands and England was set up to investigate the wreck. Thousands of objects were recovered from the wreck in the course of two seasons of excavation. Among these were numerous chests complete with contents. The talk explored shipwreck archaeology and conservation, outlining the complex nature of artefact-rich sites and object treatments. The steps taken to investigate, document and stabilise one of the chests containing approximately 100 sabre blades were outlined in the presentation.

A Conservation History of Sugar-Treated Dug Out Log Canoes in North Carolina, USA: a talk given by Sarah Watkins-Kenney ACR 2022

Sarah Watkins-Kenney ACR gave a talk to AG members in December 2022 on the treatment of dugout log canoes, which had been found in a lake in North Carolina in the 1980s.

23 canoes have been investigated and recorded in detail by archaeologists, including from the NC Office of State Archaeology and East Carolina University. All the canoes were made of bald cypress, and have been radiocarbon dated to between c.2400 BCE and 1400 CE.

Four canoes were recovered in 1985-1986, treated with sucrose and then put on display in various locations.

In 2007-2008 condition assessment of these treated canoes found that two were especially in need of re-treatment. One dates to c.340 CE and the other to c.1400 CE. Assessment of condition, identification of deposits, and testing of conservation options was undertaken in collaboration with researchers at East Carolina University, under the project management of Watkins-Kenney. This talk reviewed the initial discovery, treatment and display of the canoes in the mid-1980s. The investigations leading to re-treatment were described, followed by an outline of the project (2019- 2021) to re-conserve the two canoes for display at Pettigrew State Park, North Carolina. The conservation work was made possible with an IMLS Museums for America Collections Stewardship grant.

Dr Sarah Watkins-Kenney worked for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Office of State Archaeology as Chief Conservator and head of the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab from 2003-2020. Before moving to North Carolina, she worked for various museums, universities, regional conservation services and archaeology projects in the UK. From 1994-2003 she was head of the Metals, Ceramics and Glass Conservation Section at the British Museum. She has a PhD in Coastal Resources Management Program at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. Her dissertation research was on 'Complexity and Conservation Management of Underwater Cultural Heritage by Public Agencies in North Carolina'. She trained in archaeological conservation (BSc Hons) at the University of Wales and has an MA degree in Museum and Gallery Management from City University, London. She has been an author on over 40 publications on various aspects of the conservation of archaeological materials, including on waterlogged wood.

Conservation of Archaeological Glass 2022

The Archaeology Group 2022 AGM was followed by a series of presentations focusing on the conservation of archaeological glass.

 

We were delighted to welcome the following speakers:

  • Dr Duygu Camurcuoglu and Claire Cuyaubere (British Museum) The Beirut Glass project at the British Museum: international collaboration after the 4th of August 2020 explosion
  • Saray Naidorf (British Museum) Deconstruction and reconstruction of a Roman blue glass jar from Chettle Park
  • Liz Goodman (MOLA, Museum of London Archaeology) A thousand glass petals: a Roman millefiori bowl
  • Luisa Duarte (Museum of London) Gossamer glass: supports and fills for archaeological glass
  • Dana Goodburn Brown (DGB Conservation) Large Roman glass storage/funerary vessels in Kent: block lifting, micro-excavation and reconstruction

The event was reviewed in Icon News (102).

 

Conservation of the Galloway Hoard 2022

A lunchtime lecture was held on 17 March 2022 on the conservation of the Galloway Hoard, Scotland’s earliest Viking-age hoard, found in 2014. After extensive research and conservation work on the hoard, it now forms part of a focused exhibition, currently on tour in Scotland. It was a true conservation challenge, comprising a wide range of material (glass; rock crystal and other minerals; mineral preserved organics) in addition to precious metals. The lecture was given by Martin Goldberg (curator) and Mary Davis (conservator).

 

A review of the session appeared in Icon News, issue100 (p. 4) here

 

Gold of the Great Steppe 2022

A lunchtime lecture was held on 24 February 2022 on the Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition and research programme, a partnership between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Regional Museum of Local History in East Kazakhstan. The exhibition explored the rich culture of the Saka people of Iron Age Kazakhstan. Susi Pancaldo, liaison conservator, discussed the challenges of an exhibition with over 370 spectacular objects, mainly precious metals but also recently excavated organic materials. PhD candidate Saltanat Amir spoke about her research and the application of non-invasive analysis at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

A review of the session appeared in Icon News, issue100 (p. 29) here

A Project I am Proud of 2021

This event followed the 2021 AGM. Five papers were presented on a variety of topics followed by questions and comment; abstracts of the talks are available below.

'A Project I am Proud Of' Abstracts

The talk was recorded and is available in the Icon AG members group page.

A review of the session appeared in Icon News, issue 97 (pp. 30-31) here.

Icon Archaeology Group virtual tour of the Havering Hoard exhibition 2021

In collaboration with the Museum of London and Drakon Heritage and Conservation, the group held a virtual Zoom tour of the Havering Hoard exhibition which was held at the Museum of London Docklands from August 2020 until August 2021. The curator of the exhibition, Kate Sumnall, along with the conservators involved in the excavation (Pieta Greaves) and the preparation and installation (Luisa Duarte), discussed the work involved after the Zoom tour. The event was reviewed in Icon News (94).

Icon Archaeology Group Emerging Professionals Webinar 2020

The Icon Archaeology Group hosted a webinar on 8 December 2020 to enable emerging professionals to present projects and research related to archaeological conservation that have allowed them to expand a particular skill or knowledge area. This online event was an opportunity for students and early career professionals to increase their confidence in presenting ideas, in a friendly setting, and a chance for attendees to hear about their research and projects.

Processing Fused Deposition Modelled (FDM) polymer surfaces with heat, abrasion, solvent, and filling to reduce the appearance of corrugation and create visually integrated removable infills in low-fired ceramic objects

Amanda Berg

This study assessed methods of processing the surfaces of Fused-Deposition-Modelled (FDM, 3D printing) polymers with the goal of reducing the corrugated appearance that is often a feature of 3D printed objects. The aim was to create a surface upon which paint could be applied in order to establish the suitability of these 3D-printed polymers for use as infills in low-fired ceramic heritage objects. Two phases of testing were employed; the first compared four methods of processing the sample surfaces, using microphotography, gloss meter readings, and a touch test. The second dealt with the adhesion rates of the applied paint layer and painting samples to mimic low-fired ceramics. During phase one, the processing methods used were heat, abrasion, solvent, and filling. Heat processing was unsuccessful, but the other methods effectively reduced the corrugation. During phase two, a cross-cut tape test was used to assess the adhesion rates of the paint layer. This showed that the solvent and abrasion methods had the highest rates of adhesion. It was concluded that the solvent method was the most effective due to the ease of treatment and the high paint adhesion rates. 

New lines of research on archaeological bone

Andrea Díaz, Júlia Jiskoot & Noé Valtierra, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)/ Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art

Bone is one of the most abundant materials in the archaeological record; nevertheless, conservation research has focused very little on this material. Taphonomic processes act over a long period of time, compromising the state of conservation and future study. In this presentation, the lines of research that are being initiated at IPHES (Tarragona, Spain) on the cleaning and consolidation of this type of material were presented. Through study of the surfaces with 3D digital microscopy, before and after cleaning, the effects of different tools in the mechanical cleaning process may be analysed. As for consolidation, we have studied the viability of this treatment in humid environments and the effectiveness of different consolidants, focusing mainly on their penetration capacity in archaeological bone. In addition, other products, such as calcium hydroxide, infrequently used in bone conservation, are being explored. From both lines of research, the aim is to improve the knowledge of these treatments on archaeological bone.

What I learned: the importance of communicating conservation to non-conservation professionals

Claire McQuillan, University of Lincoln/Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Two concealed leather shoes were discovered in the foot of a staircase in an eighteenth-century warehouse during works to convert the building into offices in 2017. They were removed by builders and eventually made their way to me via the project manager. I carried out conservation treatment on the shoes, identifying materials, construction and their approximate age. I  cleaned and created storage for the shoes, and carried out research into concealed garments in buildings. This formed the basis of my MA report at the University of Lincoln. However, the biggest lesson was the need to advocate for cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. With the project manager and contractors the need to communicate conservation principles was explored, in order that non-conservation professionals could be made aware of concealed objects, and that a reporting mechanism could be set up so that future finds could avoid damage or loss of context. This was successful and other objects were reported and removed during the project, including a flag, a record book of circa 1923 and lots of rags. With senior management, the superstitions and beliefs around concealed garments were addressed, including the question of whether the shoes should be reinstated in the new building.

The investigative conservation of two composite pistols from the Rooswijk shipwreck

Heather Stewart, MSDS and Historic England

Composite objects often present the conservator with a number of dilemmas. This talk sought to outline the decision-making process in the investigative conservation of two concreted composite pistols from the Rooswijk wreck. The talk included discussion of the research and practical approaches to conservation considered prior to intervention. 

The event was reviewed in Icon News (93).

Icon Archaeology Group Twitter Conference: Archaeological Conservation in the 21st Century

The Twitter conference took place on Friday 29 May 2020 (#IconArchTC).

We had an exciting line up of 18 international tweeters presenting a large array of subjects: from coin hoards to cannon shot, Iron Age assemblages to iron chain mail and community conservation to composite objects.

The conference was reviewed in Icon News (89), pp.27–29.

Icon Archaeology Group and Metals Group 2020 Conference: Post-X Metals

The Icon Archaeology and Metals Groups held a one-day conference on 24 February.

The day comprised presentations by international speakers on the post-excavation conservation, investigation, storage and archiving of archaeological metal objects. There was a particular focus on recent Cardiff University research into the use of desiccated microclimates to store iron and copper alloys. The conference took place at Museum of London, Mortimer Wheeler House, and the day ended with guided tours of the Museum of London Archaeological Archive, the largest archaeological archive in the world. The event was reviewed in Icon News (88).

Icon Post-X Metals Conference

 

Icon Archaeology Group 2019 AGM Event: Last Supper in Pompeii

The 2019 Archaeology Group AGM took place in Oxford at the Ashmolean Museum on 8 August.

Attendees had the opportunity to visit the excellent Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition and the Ashmolean's well-appointed conservation studio to discuss the conservation work that had been carried out on objects from Pompeii.  Prior to the AGM, delegates were treated to further presentations by members of the Ashmolean objects conservation team.  The event was reviewed in Icon News (85)

Whose find is it anyway? Revisited - Conference 2018

Every year thousands of objects are discovered by metal-detector users, field-walkers, people walking, gardening or just going about their daily work. These finds are often acquired and displayed by local and national museums with the support of conservators. The Icon Archaeology Group held a one-day conference on 6 December focusing on the discovery, conservation and study of such finds, including coin hoards. Themes included working with volunteers and aspects of public engagement. After a day of fascinating talks the afternoon included a tour of the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre (MCC) or a tour of the Staffordshire Hoard.

Review by Kimberly Roche, Conservator MSDS Marine

The Icon Archaeology Group held a one-day conference at Birmingham Museums Trust Museum Collection Centre on conserving archaeological finds discovered by members of the public, 15 years after the first conference on this subject was held at the British Museum. With museum professionals, conservators from private and public organisations, and finds liaison officers (FLOs) in attendance, the event served as an excellent forum for discussion.

Pieta Greaves (with FLO Arwen Wood), Gretel Evans, and Dr Sarah Morton presented papers on their experiences as private conservators contracted to stabilise and record archaeological finds found by metal detectorists. In all three cases, the conservators joined the respective projects after the artefacts had been excavated. Alternatively, Rebecca Lang (with FLO Stuart Wyatt), Pippa Pearce, and Neil Mahrer offered their perspectives as conservators representing various museums and public heritage organisations. In all cases, the FLOs and Treasure Trove Unit officers served as intermediaries between the finders and archaeologists/conservators. The conference gave me an opportunity to present an outreach project I conducted with London Mudlark while a student at Cardiff University and seek feedback from established professionals on their respective approaches. The different perspectives served to offer a more holistic representation of the challenge faced by conservators in effectively meeting the demand to preserve these finds.

With an increased awareness and interest in archaeology and conservation in Britain, members of the public are actively seeking for artefacts with historical significance. Many positive steps have been taken to mitigate counterproductive home remedies (goodbye olive oil) and offer professional guidance on first aid for finds. However, FLOs remain overwhelmed and require the support of local conservators. Unlike archaeologists, who have organised to develop public archaeology schemes and programmes, engagement from conservators remains limited by institutional guidelines, unclear professional ethics, and funding.

The conference took an overall positive tone, celebrating the successes and improvements made in the intervening 15 years and offering optimism for future public engagement projects. Special thanks to Pieta Greaves, Icon Archaeology Group Secretary, for organising the conference.

Icon Archaeology Group 2017 AGM Event: Archaeology on Display

Icon Archaeology Group 2017 AGM Event

AGM and Forum (16 June 2017, Museum of London Docklands)

This year the Archaeology Group AGM took place in London at the Museum of London Docklands and was combined with a seminar discussing Archaeology on Display. Talks covered topics such as the redisplays at Jorvik, Hadrian’s Wall and the Mary Rose, exhibitions containing human remains at Bristol’s M Shed and the public display of conservation in museums.

Talks were followed by a chance to see the exciting new exhibition Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail​ which displayed the range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project. The artefacts helped to explore 8,000 years of human history, revealing the stories of Londoners, ranging from Mesolithic tool-makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665.

This event was reviewed in Icon News (72), p.28.

Save Our Skins (June 2023)

The Save our skins! Archaeological Leather – Research and Conservation conference took place on 27th June 2023 , and marked the first joint event between the Icon Archaeology Group and the Archaeological Leather Group, to discuss all things skins!

Please find links below to the recordings of the sessions: 

Session 1 

Session 2 

Conservation of Archaeological Roman Leather in the Netherlands

Session 4

 

Archaeological Archive Storage: Problems, Potentials and Solutions

An Archaeology Group conference held at Fishbourne Roman Palace on 16 June 2016