Passive Conservation in Archaeological Practice - The Design, Trial and Results of an Experiment with Marine Waterlogged Wood from the Mary Rose

  • Jennifer Chow

Student thesis: Phd


The current lead time for artefact-to-exhibition for waterlogged wooden specimensis measured in years. This is caused mainly by the long and costly conservationstages, which at the same time may inevitably change the nature, colour and textureof the artefact, with less known long-term consequences. This research aimed toinvestigate the possibility of drastically reducing conservation time, by practically"eliminating" it.A complete passive conservation system was designed, manufactured and set upwith the aim of conducting passive conservation with minimal intervention, whileexhibiting the wooden specimen at the same time. A controlled environment wasmaintained throughout the whole experimental period, whilst various parameters(temperature, dissolved oxygen, algal and bacterial counts etc.) were recorded.Throughout the six months of the testing period, both a test and a control specimen(originating from the same source, King Henry VIII's Flagship, the Mary Rose)were under 24/7 surveillance, through a self-developed, mainly autonomous, closedcircuit, remote surveillance data logging system.The results indicated, that by maintaining the pre-specified atmosphere in thetested environment, the bacterial and algal growths were reduced to a minimum,contrasting well with the control environment set up to mimic a natural underseasetting. As microorganisms are the main cause for biodeterioration in suchenvironments, the reduction of their activity is a major success with regards toachieving passive conservation.As this Ph.D. project aimed at determining the feasibility of achieving equilibriumin a tandem conservation-exhibition environment, it may be possible to expand thisconcept to an exhibition gallery, where newly uncovered maritime objects may beshowcased soon after they are found, without the need for an intermediary in termsof conservation, storage, and the substantial associated costs.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLindy Crewe (Supervisor) & Melanie Giles (Supervisor)

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