Archaeology Studio

See how the Archaeology Studio manages conservation of metals, waterlogged wood and leather and bone.

The Archaeological Laboratory is directly responsible for the vast archaeological collections under the auspices of the Museum. It deals with a wide range of artefacts; principally metals, waterlogged wood and leather but also bone, ceramics and stone. This involves monitoring and maintaining the artefacts in a stable environment, but more active conservation is required if the artifacts are actively deteriorating or are required for exhibition.

Lough Kinale shrine photographed for conservation

The laboratory is often called upon to provide advice and to assist archaeologists and other conservators with recently excavated material.
A conservator working on an excavation site
In certain instances conservation staff are directly involved if an important archaeological discovery is made. This may require them to travel to a site to carry out or supervise the excavation and lifting of fragile archaeological material. A vital part of the conservation process is the full recording of artefacts before they undergo any conservation treatment. For this the lab is equipped with digital cameras, a photomicrography system, weighing scales and an X-ray machine.

X-ray of Derrynaflan chalice

X-rays can reveal vital information regarding the condition of an object such as the extent of corrosion, ancient repairs, constructional techniques, decorative inlays, and coatings. In addition an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer is used for analysing the composition of various metals and their alloys. 

Other activities carried out in the laboratory include: the sampling of objects for radiocarbon dating and specialist identification; the making of moulds and replicas; and the safe packing and mounting of artefacts for exhibitions both within the Museum and for loans to other museums and institutions.

Mounting a brooch for exhibition

Some notable artefacts which have been conserved recently in the laboratories are the large Spanish Armada siege guns in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition in Collins Barracks, and the Tully Lough Cross in The Treasury in Kildare Street.