What We Do
The Royal Armouries’ Conservation Department provides a range of conservation services specialising in arms and armour, militaria and archaeological material. The Armouries has provided specialist advice to a variety of external clients, including:
- Derby Museum and Art Gallery to de-install the old gallery, plus conserve, and re-install the new Regimental Museum of the 9th/12th Lancers
- York Archaeological Trust
- Thackray Museum, Leeds
- Leeds City Council
- Qatar Museum
- West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex.
The conservation department specialises in the following:
Our team can survey collections to help prioritise which exhibits are in the most urgent need of conservation. We can also indicate areas of weakness in storage methods. The department can help write action plans, enabling clients to plan their work schedule. Data produced can also be used to support fund-raising campaigns.
We offer a wide range of conservation treatments – from archaeological to modern materials. The department advises on a wide range of areas, but specialises in arms and armour. Areas of expertise include Japanese and Indian arms and armour, plus swords and firearms from all periods.
The best way to protect a collection from decay is through preventive conservation. This method focuses on the object’s environment, and aims to make it as safe as possible. We can offer advice on many environmental aspects including humidity, light levels and pest monitoring. Additionally, we can conduct Material Testing of storage/display materials and proposed conservation materials.
Most people are familiar with the use of X-rays in hospitals. The same principles apply in museum settings, although we may opt for longer exposures to penetrate metals and other dense materials. The purpose is the same – to look below the surface at the underlying structure. The technique’s major advantage is that it’s entirely non-destructive.
We offer an X-ray service for a range of object sizes. Because the X-ray machine is free standing – rather than in a cabinet – this gives greater flexibility, as object size is limited only by access to the X-ray room. Our largest plate size is A3 but these can be ‘stitched’ together for reports by computer manipulation, where required.
- Identifying artefacts from marine wrecks or archaeological sites that are covered in thick concretions of soils and corrosion products.
- X-rays can help identify the object; record it in case of future deterioration; and pinpoint areas that would benefit from selective investigative conservation.
- Examining internal features without dismantling, such as firing mechanisms in guns and crossbows or the interior of an Egyptian mummy.
- Making grain structures in wood more visible for identification and helping to reveal an item’s construction
- Identifying makers’ marks concealed by corrosion or other parts of the object (such as the grip of a sword).
- Helping to make over-painted designs to become visible where dense compounds (such as lead oxides) are used as pigments or fillers. For example, changes in the heraldic designs on shields may provide evidence to changes of ownership or allegiance.
- Helping to identify weld lines, where edged weapons have been constructed by welding together different alloys.
- Identifying inconsistencies – features, such as modern screw threads, welded repairs etc that may not tally with the apparent age of the object. Recent repairs may also be pinpointed.
- Demonstrating and teaching purposes – X-ray plates provide an alternative, engaging but easily understandable display.
To obtain a quote
Costs for all the above are based on £45 an hour plus materials. Please contact the Royal Armouries Conservation Manager for a quote.
Short Training Courses
We offer a range of short training courses for museum staff regarding firearms, material testing, pest control/procedures, accessioning etc.
We can tailor courses to your needs and courses can be delivered at your own site. Course costs vary.
Please contact the Royal Armouries Conservation Manager for a quote.
Suzanne Dalewicz-Kitto MA BSc ACR (Arms and Armour)
Tel: 0113 2201920