Monday, 24 November 2014

Archaeological conservation

In the new gallery at the Nautical Museum that we are building, we'll be telling the story of George Quayle, his life and times, as well as that of Peggy and her conservation.
We hope to show some of the weird and wonderful stuff that was excavated from George's dock earlier this year. We can't hope to show all of it, and a lot is very fragile.
One of the most interesting finds was a small cast iron box inside which was a real muddle of things - the kind of stuff you might find in your dad's shed - some large washers, musket balls, a small canon ball, a hook, nuts and bolts, the mechanism of a flintlock pistol, scraps of lead, a key, a door knob, etc.. Most of these objects, as well as the box itself, are made of iron.
If we were to dry these things out and put them on display, it wouldn't be long before the sea salt inside them began to rust them to bits. That's why they have been stored in tanks of sea water since they were found. Now we have to try to draw out the salt, which should make looking after them much easier.
To 'de-salinate' the objects I am soaking them in a warm bath of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphite. This process will take a couple of months, after which I can slowly dry them ready for display.

Flintlock pistol mechanism

Assorted washers

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