July’s Object of the Month is a late Pre-Roman Iron Age vessel, dated to approximately 50 BC – AD 50. It was chosen as Object of the Month by Dorian Knight, Archaeology Collections Review Intern.
The vessel was excavated in Chesterton, Cambridgeshire, and donated to the museum in 1904. It is very likely that the vessel was used for feasting and would have contained both food and drink. It has been conserved and restored to its original shape using cork by a museum conservator in the twentieth century, over one thousand years after it was originally made.
Conservation and restoration are necessities in any museum, where the primary aim is to care for, stabilise and mend objects so they can continue to be used and enjoyed. What is particularly fascinating in this case is the extent of the restoration and the interesting ethical dilemma it presents. Restoration has often been considered a controversial issue; whilst some are keen to make an incomplete piece of art or precious artefact whole again, others feel that the object may have a greater value in its natural and incomplete state. Similar issues can also present themselves in our everyday lives: should we repair our old clothes so that they look newly bought, or should we leave them as they are, as a testimony to the scenes they have witnessed and the places they have been? Whatever the case, two principles are integral to conservation work. The first is reversibility: anything that is done to conserve an object should be fully reversible. The second is transparency: all conservation work should be well documented and distinguishable from the original object. In the case of this vessel, the conservator has made it very clear that the object has been restored.
You can see this vessel on display in the museum until 31 July.