Archaeology Exposed: Who cares?February 11, 2012 Archaeology, Archaeology in Action, Conservation, LAARC, LAARC VIP, Volunteers
The Museum of London proudly boasts that we have over 2,000,000 objects in our collections. Yeah, the British Museum might have 8,000,000 and the Victoria & Albert, 4,600,000, but still, 2,000,000 is a big number. In our conservation department, there are 20 members of staff. I’m no mathematician but even so, by my calculations that’s 100,000 objects per conservator. And those kind of numbers impress me.
In terms of archaeology there are 5 conservators whose job is to specifically focus on the “archaeological collections”. Since the archive opened in 2002, they have helped advise and design our basic methods of collections care which our volunteers are now practicing each Monday, Tuesday & Friday in Archaeology in Action (until March 23rd). But there are loads of other aspects of a conservator’s role that could make it the best job in the museum…
Conservators are a little bit like the doctors of the museum. They take things that look terribly unwell and make them better. And they always seem to be looking at x-rays.
They’re also the scientists of the museum. Or at least they look the part. They get to use liquids with warning labels and wear white lab coats.
They might be considered the magicians of the museum. On one hand they magically clean up objects that look like they’re beyond help and on the other hand they deal with objects that have magically transformed from their original state.
And one thing they most certainly are are the most photographed members of staff, always popping up with any press releases and in publications.
So, all in all, a pretty cool job (and secretly what I wanted to be when I first volunteered with the museum many moons ago) and with this in mind, I definitely wanted Conservation as part of our archive’s 10th Anniversary Celebrations. Every Monday for the next 6 weeks, you can find out why they’re like doctors (there’s some amazing x-rays on display revealing hidden objects), like scientists (find out the different techniques they use to preserve leather), like magicians (wait to you see their incredible piece of shrinking wood) and if you ask really nicely, they might even let you take a picture of them.
For more about our Archaeology Exposed events visit our website.