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Conservation of objects and wall paintings (Julie Dawson)

Conservation work was carried out from 16-28 October 2001.


New storage boxes were made for two of the large fragments of inscribed linen shroud conserved in previous seasons. The textiles are now all supported on archival-quality, fabric- covered boards, each held securely in a flat box made from stable corrugated plastic sheet (a polyethylene/ polypropylene copolymer)

Thirteen pieces of plain and coloured linen and one piece of wool textile were prepared for examination by April Farmer. The condition of the pieces was very variable, but mostly the fibres were still flexible with localized brittleness in areas of staining. All were crumpled and tangled. After testing any dyes for colour-fastness, each piece was gently humidified. It was placed on a piece of archival support fabric, separated from a layer of damp blotting paper by a sheet of semi-permeable membrane on a fabric backing (Goretex), and the whole assemblage covered with light polythene sheet. In this basic humidity chamber the textiles gradually took up moisture vapour and the fibres relaxed. When the textiles were sufficiently supple, as many folds as possible were opened out and straightened. Loose dirt was picked off the surface. The textiles were placed in acid-free tissue enclosures stored flat in a conservation-quality box, or were rolled over tubes made from polyester sheet covered with tissue.

Wall paintings

The condition survey of all the walls was originally made on overlays on photographs onto which the position of treated areas and edging repairs were also marked. This information has now been transferred onto drawings and wall plans. These were checked against the walls, and any remaining areas previously identified as at risk but not yet treated were stabilised. Additional notes were made on the original materials and techniques and on patterns of deterioration.

Throughout this project the conservation resources have been extremely limited and work has necessarily concentrated on the scenes and texts which survive on the walls. Only the few areas of ceiling plaster in grave danger of loss or those parts bearing inscriptions obscured by soot have been examined in detail and treated where necessary.

In this final season it was possible to make a condition survey of the ceiling in the front room, marking areas of damage, as before, on overlays of photographs. There are major areas of loss of the entire depth of plaster in several places on the ceiling, but in general the surviving plaster appear to be securely attached to the underlying rock. The painted surface is mostly intact but is partially obscured by deposits of soot and in some areas of the southern and central parts has been discoloured by heat and smoke. There are patches where the paint and underlying fine plaster layer has flaked, but in general the flakes are strongly attached and not in danger of loss.

Unstable areas of detached plaster were secured by the methods described in previous reports. In those areas where the smoke-blackening is not too deeply ingrained, nor the paint too brittle, limited cleaning with a Wishab (dry, vulcanized latex) sponge was carried out.

© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2014