New Conservation Advice for Finders is released today, aimed at metal-detectorists and anyone who discovers archaeological objects. This is a collaboration between Drakon and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).
We felt it was the right time for a new version: the last guidelines came out 15 years ago and were need of a update. With so many new finds on the PAS database, it also felt like a good time to use some of the amazing images created by the dedicated local Finds Liaison Officers and their volunteers in the new guide.
What did we want to say in the guidelines?
The aim was to provide simple, straightforward information on the recovery and care of finds. We undertook consultation to understand what people, both heritage professionals and potential users, would want to see in the guide. Some common themes were identified when discussing cleaning and coating finds, the most important being NO OLIVE OIL, a commonly-used but harmful coating for finds.
The first section of the guidance covers good practice when preparing to search and during the discovery of objects. This includes when to seek help, such as when hoards or fragile objects are found.
Caring for finds: assessment
The next section deals with caring for finds. Each material type has a section to help with material identification and condition assessment of a object.
Understanding what materials you have in the first place is the key to caring for them correctly, and we wanted to make that a focus of the guidance.
Each section describes corrosion products and possible issues with stability in the long and short term.
Once discovered, objects can change stability quickly as they are exposed to the higher levels of oxygen and moisture outside the burial environment. In the case of waterlogged materials those changes can be immediate and permanent, such as leather which can dry out fast leading to shrinkage and brittleness.
The importance of case studies
Several case studies have been added to the guide to promote best practice and introduce the benefits of working with specialists. We have focussed on examples where specialists have worked on the discovery with the finders or on the finds themselves to maximise the archaeological information recovered.
The guidelines consider both what to do, and what not to do for finds. The aim was to provide enough information so people can look after objects themselves but also to explain when and why you should consult a specialist such as local Finds Liaison Officer, museum curator or conservator.
The guidance offers storage and display advice, as archaeological finds often have very specific requirements to ensure long-term survival.
We hope the guidelines will dispel many myths about the care of objects and promote best practice.
To achieve maximum coverage the guidelines were printed in the September issue of Treasure Hunting magazine. From today, they are also available as a free pdf download on this blog and the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.
We wish to thank all the contributors who read and provided feedback on the guidelines.