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Conservation Services



We specialise in the conservation of archaeological artefacts, objects from museum collections, as well as research and analysis of artefacts using a wide variety of scientific techniques.

Archaeological artefacts

We have worked on archaeological artefacts excavated by a wide variety of clients, including archaeological organisations and community groups from across the UK including iron objects, copper alloys, jet, ceramics, stone items and organic materials such as leather, textiles and waterlogged wood. We can help at all stages of the archaeological process, including: 

  • On-site advice and assistance in the excavation and transport of delicate objects
  • Conservation assessments of artefacts, including the initial cleaning, x-radiography, stabilisation and packaging of archaeological materials, and recommendations for further works as necessary
  • Full investigative conservation, including air abrasion, consolidation, freeze-drying of waterlogged materials, artefact re-assembly and reconstruction, and artefact photography
  • The preparation of objects for display

Artefact analysis

As part of the conservation process, we can analyse artefacts using: 

  • UV and IR light
  • Stereo-microscopy
  • Energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence (EDXRF)
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • X-radiography (both film and digital)

These techniques can be used to look at the organic and elemental composition of artefacts and residues. Examples of the types of information they provide include:

  • Wood and fibre identification
  • Pigment analysis
  • The manner in which gilding and other metallic coatings were applied
  • Metals composition and the presence or absence of coatings
  • Manufacturing techniques employed in the production of the object

In addition to the services we can provide directly, we frequently work closely with the other labs in the department (particularly DARC and the Digital Visualisation lab) and within the university to record or investigate additional aspects of an object’s manufacture or history and we are happy to facilitate this type of collaborative investigation for clients.

Museum objects

We conduct work on historic objects for museums and private clients. Treatments we have carried out in the past have included the conservation of objects from anthropological collections, the treatment of a collection of wet taxidermied specimens and the conservation of historic arms and armor, as well as paint sampling and analysis from historic vehicles.

Other services that we offer include:

  • Conducting condition surveys of collections, which helps the client institution identify risks to their collections and set priorities for remediating them.
  • Monitoring and advising on topics such as control temperature, relative humidity, light levels and pest monitoring.
  • Materials testing for display/storage materials and advice on alternative conservation grade materials should the need arise.

Workshop development and delivery

We have experience in developing and delivering short workshops on topics ranging from First aid for Archaeological Finds, to Collections Care. We would be delighted to talk with you about your training needs and how we might help to fill them. Get in touch via email or telephone: +44 191 334-1117.



Lanchester Diploma

The Lanchester Diploma is a Fleet diploma (the equivalent of discharge papers) issued to a sailor named Tigernos who left the Roman Navy after a 26-year career in around 150 AD.  When it was found in Co. Durham by a metal detector, the eight pieces of copper alloy that made up the diploma were heavily corroded.  Careful cleaning helped to reveal the inscription on the surface and make it more legible. Photography, x-rays and metallurgical analysis added additional information to our understanding of this unique object.

Photo montage of one leaf of the Lanchester Diploma before cleaning, as x-rayed and after cleaning.Photo montage of one leaf of the Lanchester Diploma before cleaning, as x-rayed and after cleaning. Credit: The Department of Archaeology and the Museum of Archaeology, Durham University.



Dr Emily Williams

Prior to coming to Durham, Emily was employed as a conservator for nearly 25 years, working for a range of museums and archaeological sites. She has worked on both terrestrial and marine sites. She wrote and won grants for the rehousing and assessment of a large archaeological collection and carried out similar projects in smaller site archives. She has also led large research projects She is a Fellow of both the American Institute of Conservation and the International Institute for Conservation.

Jemima Cowey

Jemima trained in conservation at the University of Melbourne.  She has worked on sites in the U.A.E, Greece, Egypt, Portugal, and Scotland.  She has also had extensive experience working with historic objects, but her first love remains the treatment of archaeological metals.


Contract services:

For a quote or to discuss the potential treatment of an object please contact us via the below:

Conservation Laboratory
Department of Archaeology, Durham University
Dawson Building
South Road