Conserving Vulture Peak | Episode 5: Surface cleaning

December 25, 2019

One of the very first stages of our
treatment of this object is to surface clean the embroidery. As you can see
there’s this overall greyish appearance. It’s quite dull. And that’s actually
caused by particulate soiling which is embedded in the fibres and we think
that’s from the embroidery’s time on display in the Museum. We want to remove that because it can be
potentially quite damaging to the object it can be acidic and it can become more embedded
and built up over time. So we remove those by
very simply using vacuum cleaning. This isn’t your everyday domestic vacuum
cleaner it’s very useful for conservation because we can control the
power very subtly so you can make sure it’s not too strong and potentially
damaging the object. We use a very fine nozzle with nylon mesh over the end.
We actually vacuum through these very fine nylon meshes as you can see they’re
quite small so we just vacuum a small square area at a time. The main reason we use such small squares
of net is because you have to be able to hold that net down with one hand while
you’re vacuuming with the other. So if it was any bigger it would be impossible to
hold down in a safe way for the object. And it also helps because you can
really see where you’re going and track your progress through the treatment. During cleaning we don’t want to be damaging any of the fibres so we make
sure we’re not doing that by constantly checking our progress as we go.
We’re always very aware of the fact that it is eighth century and it is quite
fragile in some places. So the net really helps to hold down those fibres. We also
check the fibres under magnification before and after cleaning to make sure
that they haven’t been affected or lost during that process. We’re also particularly careful in areas where the threads are noticeably more
damaged or in large areas of loss we’ll be vacuuming on a lower setting. So we’re quite pleased with the results of this treatment. It’s a very simple treatment but
been very effective. As you can see in these areas that we’ve already cleaned, the silk embroidery is really much brighter. You can see colours that you
couldn’t see before, they’re much more vibrant. The reflective properties of the fibres has
really come out and it literally shines. So it’s fantastic to be
able to see that again. So. So far the cleaning treatment has
taken about 13 hours to do just a third of the object. So we have a few more
hours to go before completing this stage.

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