Christina Rozeik (b. 1976)
Born in London in 1976, Christina Rozeik attended the Hertfordshire and Essex High School in Bishops Stortford and then read Philosophy at Clare College, Cambridge. Having taken a strong interest in aesthetic theory and notions of authenticity, in particular, she subsequently trained as an object conservator at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. In 2005, Rozeik joined the Fitzwilliam Museum as a conservator and assisted with the refurbishment of the museum’s Egyptian galleries. It was at this time that she worked on many interesting objects, including a cartonnage mummy case of Nakhtefmut, the Nakhtefmut Papyrus and a small figure of Osiris. The latter proved a particularly challenging object to work on and demanded Rozeik to develop an innovative conservation technique.
‘When the statue came into the conservation lab, my first thought was what a lovely object it was: a beautiful, unbaked mud statue, sadly disfigured by some ugly old repairs. My second thought, when I’d had a chance to examine it more closely, was one of panic. How on earth could I remove these repairs without damaging the fragile object further? The repairs were made from cotton wool soaked in animal glue, shoved into gaps in the statue and all very firmly bonded to the surrounding mud. Animal glue is only soluble in water, so any attempt to dissolve it would almost certainly end in disaster for the rest of the statue! What I needed was a way of removing the animal glue without getting the mud wet.
After a lot of debate with other conservators in the museum, I decided to test a material that was relatively new to conservation. Cyclododecane (CDD) is a wax with a very special property: at normal room temperature and air pressure, it will slowly sublime (it will change from a solid into a gas, without the liquid phase in between). Being a wax, CDD is also hydrophobic (it repels water). If I applied CDD to the areas around the animal glue, it would temporarily protect the vulnerable mud from moisture while we used water to remove the animal glue. And after a while, the CDD should sublime without leaving a trace.
Of course, I wanted to test that this would work before trying an experimental treatment on such a valuable object! I made some replica mud statues from sifted garden soil bound with chopped dried grass. As the Egyptian sun is rather stronger than that in Cambridge, I baked the statues in a very low oven, to dry out the mud a little. I was left with several surprisingly convincing figures that could be chopped up and experimented on with impunity.
Finally, I felt confident to try out my treatment for real. I applied the CDD around the edges of some animal glue, wet the animal glue a little ... and found that I was able to remove some of it easily without damaging the surrounding mud. It was slow work, but eventually I removed most of the animal glue/cotton wool fills, and I felt that the statue’s appearance was much improved as a result. I didn’t try to separate the fragments of statue that had also been stuck together with animal glue: sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t undo an unsatisfactory earlier treatment without risking a huge amount of damage to the object.
The final phase of the treatment was to consolidate the crumbling mud, by introducing a resin solution (the consolidant) into it to strengthen it. The concentration of the consolidant has to be just right: too high and it will not penetrate deep enough to be effective; too low and it will not be strong enough to hold together the weak fabric of the object. A common problem is that, as the consolidant dries, the evaporation of the solvent used to dilute it draws the consolidant back up to the surface of the object, often causing staining. I avoided this problem with the Osiris figure by covering most of the surface with CDD and feeding the consolidant in slowly through a gap in the top. The CDD acted as a barrier, slowing the evaporation of the solvent through the surface and stopping the consolidant from staining the mud. It also acted as an extra consolidant, helping to hold together the fragile statue while it was soaked in the consolidation resin!
By the time the consolidant had dried, the opening date for the Egyptian galleries was looming, and it didn’t look as if the CDD was subliming fast enough to have disappeared by then, so I had to speed it up a bit with a hairdryer...
Although this treatment certainly had its anxious moments, it was also great fun developing a creative way to solve a difficult problem. And I feel very proud every time I pass Osiris on display in the Egyptian galleries, knowing that he is much stronger (and better looking) as a result!’
Rozeik enjoys both research and writing and has worked on several conservation publications, including the peer-reviewed journal Reviews in Conservation. She has also written a booklet, The Conservation of the Nakhtefmut Papyrus, based on her research at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and worked on the publication of a series of papers – Decorated Surfaces on Ancient Egyptian Objects - that came out of a conference held at the museum in 2007. Since 2006, Rozeik has been the News and Web Editor for the International Institute for Conservation (IIC), launching a new international conservation newspaper, News in Conservation. She currently also works part-time as a conservator at the Royal Institution in London, where she has worked on objects as diverse as Wimshurst machines, Michael Faraday’s experimental induction coils, and a boomerang used in one of the Institution’s Christmas lectures
Christina Rozeik lives in Cambridge.
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