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Do nothing or go the full hog and build a replica

Corroded cannon being prepared for conservation

The Dutch composite gun (XIX.983) sometimes known as a Minion Drake being lowered into the desalination tank.

Fort Nelson Conservator Matthew Hancock’s paper at the triennial Institute of Conservation conference in Birmingham.

The paper titled ‘Do nothing or go the Full Hog and build a Replica’, investigates current treatment trends in conservation in line with the conference theme.   The presentation uses one of the Fort’s most interesting and recent acquisitions, a mid-17th century composite ‘minion drake’, as a case study for this academic presentation. This composite gun was chosen because a minimum of two different conservation techniques could be utilized to conserve it.

Additionally, due to the history associated with the gun, it would be desirable to build a replica for preservation of skills and historic research.

The paper presented by Matthew will look at the conservation treatments options for this gun and the issues arising from managing complex conservation projects.

The presentation identifies the pros and cons behind administrating different conservation treatments, for example why in certain situations building a replica which conserves skills may outweigh moving the gun from storage in a desalination tank  for future generations to enjoy. Frequently a combination of different treatment techniques is utilised as shown below.

Many levels of corrosion shown on the cannon's intricate decoration

This image captures the level of corrosion on the composite gun. Treatment methods to conserve the intricate design would include washing out the chloride ions; pacifying the corrosion using either a pH neutral chemical or sensitive abrasive treatment. Finally a protective wax would be applied.

The paper briefly discusses the authenticity of the gun and the science combined with historical research used to establish that the gun was in fact genuine. The combination of historical and scientific research is another current treatment trend within conservation.  In this case, forensic XRF (x-ray fluorescence) technology was used to identify the different types of metal that make this gun a composite gun.

The 17th century Marine Salvage Project focuses on three guns recovered from the river Thames and Goodwin Sands, off the Kent coast, all of which require technical conservation treatments. This project has been made possible with funding from The Arms & Armour Heritage Trust, The Radcliffe Trust and The Leche Trust.

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