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Conservation Laboratories

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The Institute has well equipped conservation laboratories on the 6th floor of the building where the light (and views) are excellent. An important feature of the original 1950s design for the Institute’s building, the labs were completely refurbished in the 1990s.

The laboratories provide facilities for teaching of conservation practice and for small-scale research. Conservation students and staff also make regular use of the Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratories to use the exceptional range of investigative techniques, and to develop larger research projects; they also use the Institute’s Photographic Laboratory which is equipped for sophisticated imaging techniques.

Conservation practice covers archaeological, ethnographic and social history objects, and the labs are equipped for the preventive and remedial conservation of ceramics, glass, plasters, metals (particularly copper alloys and iron), and organics of all kinds.

Facilities

With the exception of the adjacent Conservation Research Lab (see below) the conservation laboratories occupy two large interlinked spaces which are divided into sections according to specific use.

Artifact storage

Next to the entrance to the labs is a walk-in cupboard used for the secure storage of artifacts.

Teaching and demonstration lab

This is a versatile space that can be arranged with one large table or several smaller mobile laboratory grade tables. It is used for seminar teaching and practical demonstration, for laying out large quantities of material or for individual student projects. This area can be blacked out and is equipped with a digital projector, overhead projector and whiteboard. It is also equipped with local fume extraction system which can be directed to specific areas.

At the other end of this area there are facilities for wet work including a large sink with deioniser. Also housed in this area is a Soxhlet extractor used to stabilise metalwork, an oven, and digital balances and a range of laboratory equipment and supplies. Opening off this is an enclosed booth housing air abrasive equipment used for the mechanical cleaning of artifacts.

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Practical Conservation lab

This lab is dedicated to student practical work and one-to-one teaching. Each MSc student is assigned a permanent bench area with shelves, cupboard, task light, stereo-microscope, and local solvent fume extraction. At the beginning of the programme students are given a basic personal tool kit, and the lab is equipped with all other small tools and equipment required for work on objects, such as steam cleaner, heated spatulae, vacuum tweezers, air brushes. It also houses a wide range of conservation materials such as synthetic and natural polymers.

At one end of this area there is a large fume cupboard and a sink equipped with eyewash equipment for safety purposes. At the other end there is a small photographic cubicle equipped with lighting and digital cameras which is used for quick record photography. There are also computers, a printer, a scanner, DVD player and LCD, and a small reference library.

Conservation Research Laboratory

This is a clean lab equipped with benching, fume cupboard and computers. It houses high powered and polarising microscopes and is used for examination and investigation of artifacts, microscopic identification of materials such as pigments, and photo-microscopy.

Preventive conservation

The Institute is also fully equipped for monitoring and controlling display and storage environments i.e. for measuring temperature, light levels, ultraviolet light, relative humidity, and pollutants. This equipment is used for teaching and student practice in exhibition and storage areas throughout the College.  

Enquiries: James Hales


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