Conservation Service Quiz

All the objects which the Conservation Service looks after need different treatment. Here's your chance to find out if you can work out which treatment is right for each object.

Read through the possibilties for each object and look at the picture. When you have decided what a conservator should do, scroll down to find the right answer beneath the picture.

Object One: Leather Shoe

What should a conservator do?

  1. Run it under the tap?
  2. Leave it to dry out ?
  3. Freeze dry it ?

leather shoe in profile

1) Run it under the tap - NO.

A conservator will clean wet materials but this needs to be carefully done. Running the shoe under a tap may remove organic remains such as threads from the stitching of the shoe. There may also be loose fragments of leather inside the soil that will also be lost.

2) Leave it to dry out - NO.

Leaving the shoe to dry out on its own will make the leather shrink and become extremely hard. The shape of the shoe may also become distorted so that it will be difficult to see what it originally looked like.

3) Freeze dry it - YES.

The shoe cannot stay wet forever or it will eventually rot away. A conservator will treat the shoe with a substance to replace the water inside the leather. Freeze drying will remove the water and leave this substance behind inside the cells of the leather to prevent it shrinking. The object will be dry and stable and can be studied or displayed.

Object Two: Copper Alloy Buckle

What should a conservator do?

  1. Run it under the tap?
  2. Clean the buckle with a bristle brush?
  3. Clean the object under a microscope?

Copper alloy buckle

1) Run it under the tap - NO.

The soil may be all that is holding some parts of the object together, these parts may be lost. There may be other materials associated with the object, fragments of textile from clothing for example. Water will also make the object corrode even more.

2) Clean the buckle with a bristle brush - NO.

The object will need careful cleaning. There may be fine cracks on the surface of the buckle that may not be immediately obvious to the naked eye. Cleaning the buckle with an abrasive material will remove valuable detail that will help in confirming the date of the object. Layers of corrosion will also be removed that may actually be protecting the surface of the buckle or may even contain the original surface of the buckle itself.

3) Clean the object under a microscope - YES.

Cleaning the buckle carefully under a microscope will prevent any damage being done to the surface and will allow the conservator to see what should be removed and what should be left.

Object Three: Mysterious Lump of Iron

What should a conservator do?

  1. Start hitting the lump to try to remove the hard soil?
  2. X-ray the object?
  3. Clean the object carefully?

Large lump of soil with some iron visible

1) Start hitting the lump to try to remove the hard soil - NO!

A conservator would NEVER do this. Parts of an object may be contained in the soil and irreparable damage will be done.

2) X-ray the object - YES.

X-raying can usually reveal what the object is, how much metal is left and how the object was made. It can also reveal whether any other materials have been used in the objects’ construction.

3) Clean the object carefully - YES.

A conservator will use x-rays as a guide to remove soil and corrosion from either the whole or part of an object mechanically.