LONDON, March 9, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --
Ahead of British Science Week, The Mary Rose's Head of Conservation, Dr Eleanor Schofield announces her latest project: preserving Henry VIII's 1200+ cannonballs in partnership with University College London and Diamond Light Source
In a ground-breaking partnership between The Mary Rose, UCL and Diamond Light Source, the Mary Rose's Head of Conservation, Dr Eleanor Schofield and her colleagues are working at the cutting edge of conservation science to preserve the haul of cannonballs found on Henry VIII's flagship, sunk in 1545 and raised in 1982.
In a paper published today, results from the pioneering research provide crucial information to help protect this cultural heritage for decades to come. Though the cannonballs began as relatively similar, since excavation they have been treated by different conservation methods. Diamond's bright light X-rays make it possible to visualise differences in the corrosion profiles and trace them to the treatments applied, allowing unprecedented insight into conservation on a molecular scale.
Dr Schofield explains: "This is conservation science at its most cutting edge. We have taken just 12 of the cannonballs - less than 1% of the Mary Rose's stock but enough to provide statistical validity of our findings - to investigate different methods of conservation through synchrotron science. Our sample is unique as all were raised from the sea at the same time, made at the same time, and are of very similar construction as only one iron blast furnace existed in Britain at the time. Once we've found the solution, the cannonballs can be preserved for generations to come and the science made available globally to everyone working to conserve maritime or iron-rich artefacts."
Seawater causes corrosion that weakens iron's structure. With over 1,200 cannonballs, the search for a solution was imperative. After consulting with Mary Rose curators, the decision was made to cut segments from 6 of the 12 cannonballs, some of which were showing signs of damage, in order to save the rest.
Dr Schofield continues: "This decision was not taken lightly and was justified by sacrificing a small percentage of our collection for the benefit of the rest and other collections around the world which suffer the same problem."
Dr Schofield is working with PhD student Hayley Simon from UCL Institute of Archaeology, who adds: "These results represent a first step towards the development of new protective techniques. We are launching next a long duration experiment to observe changes in the corrosion product during long-term immersion in various conservation treatments to monitor their effects."
Diamond, the UK's synchrotron, offers many non-destructive techniques to unlock the secrets of ancient artefacts and explore ways to conserve them. Much has been achieved through research carried out there on wood from the Tudor ship, monitoring its treatment and current environment and developing new conservation treatments.
Dr Schofield adds: "People often ask what science has to do with the Mary Rose - the answer is everything! The detail Diamond offers allows us to find ways of conserving ancient artefacts because this process often starts at cellular, molecular and atomic levels. Science is a vital part of conservation, and it's great to know that we're playing our part in preserving our cultural heritage."
Prof Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source, states, "The breadth of science that takes place at Diamond is vast and this study is a wonderful example of ground-breaking research that happens when unique institutions collaborate. Cultural heritage is an important sector for the UK economy contributing £20 billion to the GDP. We are delighted when Diamond's brilliant light can offer insights into remarkable artefacts and assist the Mary Rose Trust in their valuable work."
Dr Sofia Diaz-Moreno, Science Group Leader of Spectroscopy, Diamond Light Source, concludes, "Learning about the effect of different conservation techniques on a sample allows conservationists to determine the best preservation treatment for an artefact. Although not well known in the heritage sector, Diamond has a suite of techniques that can chemically determine the effectiveness of different treatments helping to elucidate new conservation methodologies."
To view video: https://vimeo.com/259132223/11123b0d3b
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