First airing of conservators’ new toy at the Royal Academy

By MOLA archaeological conservators Liz and Luisa

Sometimes, we archaeological conservators get to do some non-archaeological related work. This week we have been helping the Royal Academy of Art pack their collection of human remains.


This collection is mostly comprised of articulated skeletons and limbs. And was probably used by art students to learn anatomy and help them draw accurately. The articulated nature of the objects presents quite a challenge when moving and packing the remains. So special attention has to be paid to fingers and toes, bouncy patellae and spring action jaws. We have been making acid free tissue mittens and socks to protect the hands and feet; and bandaging mandibles and joins to make sure they don’t shake whilst in transport.














Packing loose material

However the bulk of our work is archaeological; and currently quite a bit of it is the conservation of waterlogged organics, like leather and wood. In order to treat these types of objects we need a vacuum freeze dryer. Our very elderly vacuum pump for the freeze dryer finally decided to take a much deserved retirement (in a skip) a couple of months back. Today we finally received our brand new shiny vacuum pump and Liz could not be happier.



Proud mama looking her new baby for the very first time



It’s alive!

The rest of the day will be looking at our new toy every five minutes to check the vacuum pump is still working properly and filling up the freezer chamber to start drying leather again.