Volunteering with the Wiltshire Conservation Service

Volunteering with the Wiltshire Conservation Service

The conservation of Pitt Rivers’ archaeological models from 1890’s

Part 2

Watch our conservation video:

Rachel Stammers

Rachel working on the Bokerley Dyke model (1888)

The team of conservators and volunteers recently cleaned, repaired and conserved four large archaeological models designed by the famous archaeologist, General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (14 April 1827 – 4 May 1900).

Meet Rachel Stammers, a volunteer with Wiltshire Conservation Service

My name is Rachel Stammers and I have been volunteering with the Wiltshire Conservation Service, helping with the conservation of four large models of archaeological sites excavated by General Pitt-Rivers. Having recently finished a Masters in the Conservation of Historic Objects at the University of Lincoln and moved home to Salisbury, I was looking for opportunities to gain further experience in the field.

Opportunities for post-graduate conservation experience

I had been volunteering with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire suggested I get in touch with the Wiltshire Conservation Service to see if there were any suitable projects.  I got involved with this project as the four models were being treated on site in the lecture theatre at the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum. The models were too large, heavy and fragile to transport back to Chippenham, which is where the Conservation Service has a laboratory.

To learn more about volunteer opportunites, contact us:

conservationartifacts@wiltshire.gov.uk  or call +44 (0)1249 705500

Rachel designs exhibition panels for visitors

I started by researching the models, and writing information boards explaining who General Pitt-Rivers was and why the models are important – each day we opened our temporary laboratory to the public and explained what we were doing. Rachel talking about conservation with a visitor

The archaeological models had been in storage for over 30 years and had not been accessible to the public. It was a rare opportunity to see them on display as part of the conservation exhibition. We wanted a bit of background information for people to read about condition and treatment we were carrying out on the models at the time.

Photographing and documenting the conservation treatment

After setting up all the equipment in the temporary lab, we started by photographing each model and writing a detailed report of their condition and any damage.

Two of the Pitt Rivers’ archaeological models before conservation treatment

Assessing materials and condition

One of the models is made of solid wood; the other three consist of a wooden frame filled with plaster of Paris, each model being painted to show the lay of the land around the site and with captions explaining what was found. All four models were dusty, had cracks in the wood or plaster and areas where the paint was lifting.

Before treatment: visible dust and dirt on the surface.

Before treatment: visible dust and dirt on the surface.

So we cleaned the less fragile areas with a brush and smoke sponge to get rid of the loose dirt and then used a diluted adhesive to consolidate the fragile areas before cleaning them in the same way.

Rachel Stammers cleaning a Pitt Rivers model

Rachel is cleaning the Rotherley excavation model

Three of the models have previously been attacked by woodworm (and at least two of them are still being eaten away), and so treating the pest problem is next on the to do list.

Woodworm damage

Woodworm damage


To learn more about volunteer opportunites, contact us:

conservationartifacts@wiltshire.gov.uk  or call +44 (0)1249 705500

More posts on this project to follow……

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