Date: 2 May 2012
Temperature: -32 deg C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48 deg C
If you’re an avid reader of our blogs you may wonder what we do with our spare time when we’re not playing golf, attending ceremonies, enjoying dinners and going on day trips. Well, we like to fit in some conservation from time to time.
This season we are extremely fortunate to be conserving a huge variety of interesting artefacts from the expedition bases. Over winter the team will conserve around 1200 objects. I have been dealing with the items on a desk outside the dark room in Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans where there are a number of items relating to communication and one of these is this telegraph key.
Telegraph key before conservation © AHT
The image of the key before conservation shows that the metal components are obscured by corrosion. Careful removal revealed that the screws are constructed from brass and that there is a layer of gold on the surface of the iron key mechanism. This isn’t unusual bearing in mind that electrical components today are still gold-plated to prevent the base metals oxidizing.
It was essential to reveal, but not remove, the gold layer. So after cleaning the metal it was coated with a lacquer to prevent the iron from further rusting and losing any more of the gold-plate.
Telegraph key after conservation © AHT
Conservation also revealed drops of wax on the wooden base. Although they are not an original component of the object these were retained as they tell a story about the history of use of the artefact and are preserved to retain its historical integrity.