Emma Payne

Condition, Significance and Conservation of Plaster Casts of Greek and Roman Sculpture

My PhD research involves investigating plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculptures, with particular reference to the collection of such casts at the British Museum. Plaster casts of ancient sculptures were commonly made in the 19th century. These casts can now be valued for a range of different reasons, for example, as historic, educational objects illustrative of the technical skill of cast-makers. Perhaps of most interest to archaeologists is the fact that casts can retain a greater level of surface detail than the originals, most commonly in cases where the original remained outside, in situ, for a significant period of time after the creation of the cast (and so subject to processes such as weathering). I am researching the potential value of casts and the ways that they, and the information contained within them, can most appropriately be conserved.

This involves investigation of current condition of the casts and consideration of influences upon condition (both direct: material composition, storage environment, handling; and indirect: attitudes towards the casts and their perceived value), followed by comparison with the surface condition of the originals. Identification of casts containing surface information lost from originals will help with the development of an appropriate conservation plan to try to ensure that such information is not also lost from the casts.

In addition to my PhD research, I am also interested in practical archaeological conservation, particularly of stone sculpture and wall-paintings, and research into the materials and techniques used.

Funding organisation

  • AHRC


 Educational background

  • BA, Literae Humaniores (Classics), Oxford University, 2009
  • MA, Principles of Conservation, UCL, 2011
  • MSc, Conservation for Archaeology and Museums, UCL, 2013

Imaging techniques in conservation. Journal of Conservation & Museum Studies 2013 10(2), 17-29

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