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World Cultures Galleries are closed for redevelopment
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Gallery 20 will be closed from Friday 1 Dec until noon Saturday 2 December

Sarah Klopf conserving the Seaton Down Hoard

Sarah Klopf conserving the Seaton Down Hoard

Conserving the Seaton Down Hoard

After securing the Seaton Down Hoard for the people of Devon and Exeter we will now work on making the 23,000 coins accessible for our visitors and specialists. Part of this will be the conservation of 1% of the hoard.

Conserving Roman coins

The treatment of a Roman coin is not normally daunting for an experienced archaeological conservator. It is almost a routine treatment. It involves cleaning the surface with small hand tools, for example with a small scalpel blade or wooden satay stick, under magnification. This removes most of the soil and corrosion products and, depending on the condition of the coin, reveals the surface detail that is left.

Cleaning a hoard of 23,000 coins, however, is a completely different matter. There have been several discussions and articles in the conservation world about how to deal with large find numbers. Very often with projects like this, there are not only a huge number of coins, but also the constraints of deadlines and resources. To be able to clean coins more quickly chemical treatment methods, like immersing coins in diluted acids, are used. Chemical cleaning processes can be quite difficult to control and there is a danger of removing important information by accident.

Conserving the Seaton Down Hoard

For the Seaton Down Hoard we have chosen a very different approach putting an emphasis on community engagement rather than on the conservation of each individual coin. We will offer conservation workshops for mainly A-level students and other community groups, for example metal detectorists, to help us mechanically clean about 1% of the hoard. This will help us to promote the importance of and the skills involved in the conservation of archaeological metal finds.

The 1% of coins chosen for the conservation workshops will be a representative sample of the variants found within the hoard like the different mints and emperors. The coins will be cleaned to display standard and will work as an introduction to the hoard once on display in the gallery from July 2017.

After a preliminary clean and identification at the British Museum the remaining 99% of the hoard are also accessible and stable enough to be put on display.

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