Conservation advice note 1

Are you prepared?

A pair of detectorists working a field

  • Before you start out, it's a good idea to create a system for numbering your finds, and recording the find-spot.
  • Keep anything you find safe by having the right bags, markers, and other materials with you
  • Know how to recognise an important archaeological find and, when you do, what action to take and when to ask for help.
  • Sometimes scraps of metal which look like rubbish are actually fragments of important archaeological objects!
  • Have a look at the Treasure Act so you are familiar with the law on Treasure
  • You might want to keep the contact details for your local PAS Finds Liaison Officer handy in order to report your finds.

Found metals? Dry them out

An example of a conservation dry box

  • Most metal objects benefit from a dry environment. Take the finds you want indoors and leave them to dry out unwashed on a tray lined with white kitchen roll. Avoid putting finds directly on the radiator as this might dry them out too quickly and cause them to crack.
  • Have you thought about using a 'DRY BOX'? Contact your local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) to see an example. They will also be able to show you how to maintain a desiccated environment and halt corrosion.       

Remember your ABC: take Advice Before Cleaning

Detail of a corroded iron lump that has been xrayed and cleaned in subsequent stages

  • Most things you will find need no treatment other than dry storage.
  • Conservation isnt just about cleaning and caring for your objects, it is about looking after your records of find-spots and other data as well.
  • You may easily reduce the value of a find by conserving it yourself. Make sure your find is not an important archaeological object first before cleaning it.
  • If you are unsure about what you have found your local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) will be able to help identify it for you.

Finding out more

A detectorist being shown lab techniques for conservation

  • The FLO may occasionally ask an archaeological conservator to make an X-ray image of your find in order to see through the layers of soil and corrosion, or examine it under a microscope. This could help identify the object and the materials used to make it.
  • Hidden decoration, organic remains (e.g. textiles, leather, and wood) and manufacturing techniques may also be revealed.
  • You may even find out something about the life of the object such as use, wear, damage and repair