Conservation

The auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham is over 180 years old, and as such requires a rolling programme of checks and monitoring to ensure its survival into the future. It has also been the subject of a number of reports and condition checks over the years.

Below is a short summary of the major reports, as well as downloadable copies where possible. 

Most recent climate reports

In December 2012 an environmental monitor was installed in the auto-icon's box. This piece of equipment allows us to measure changes in temperature, relative humidity, UV and Lux light levels in the box. Click on the links to see this data in visual form.

The most recent data shows that inside the box -

  • 30-35% RH and 20C average temperature – A low relative humidity but a good, steady temperature.
  • No UV - Good news!
  • Lux levels – low, but new positioning of the meter may tell a different story.
Dusting Bentham

November 2012

The auto-icon was removed from its case in November 2012 for inspection and light dusting. The box containing the auto-icon was also given a deep clean at this time.

The auto-icon was found to be in good condition, with only a small amount of dust build up, mostly on the feet. All the objects in the case were also photographed and condition checked at this time. No major problems were reported.

March 2004

Detailed photographic record made of Jeremy Benthams preserved head, including standard exposures, Ultraviolet flourescence. Infrared flourescence, direct Infrared, direct Ultraviolet.

February 2003

Engels Brothers Media filming on behalf of the National Geographic Channel. A comprehensive investigation of the wired skeleton and preserved head of Jeremy Bentham is undertaken. Work consisted of Endoscopy, high resolution x-rays of all major joints plus hands, feet, thorax and head, analysis of a hair sample and also analysis of one of many unidentified objects found in the cranium.

Click here to download auto-icon condition report
Click here to download auto-icon wax head condition report

Checking Light Levels

November 2001

Inspection and treatment of textiles by the Textile Conservation Centre in preparation for the loan of the auto-icon to Essen, Germany.

May 2001

Re-examined for assessment for another loan to Essen, this time to the Ruhrlandmuseum. All the garments appeared to be structurally sound with the 1981 support stitching remaining effective. The garments did however shows signs of insect activity (holes in the coat and frass [droppings] located across the shoulder and directly beneath the proper right cuff. Remains of five insect larvae and one live specimen were removed from the hair of the wax head. Attagenus pellio (carpet beetle). No other live insect activity was observed on the accesible areas of the auto-icon at this time.

1992

The auto-icon was re-examined but not undressed for assesment of a potential loan to the Villa Hugel Museum in Essen, Germany. All garments examined appeared to be in sound condition, however the garments had become soiled. No sign of insect infestation.

Cleaning Bentham's Shoes

1981

Clothes removed, cleaned, supported as necessary. Linen tow wrapping of the skeleton was secured in place to give better shaping and support for the clothes. The skeleton was briefly examined and found to have a distinctive smell and greasy feel.

January 1898

First recorded inspection of the auto-icon. Conducted by Professor (later Sir) George Thane and the Curator of the Anatomy Museum, T. W. P. Lawrence. See the spreadsheet in the History section for further information.