Conservation and restoration of ceramics

Preserving the objects in the collections of the Natural History Museum as well as new finds from excavations carried out by Department of Prehistory can in some cases demand very different methods and techniques. The museum’s restorers clean, put back together and preserve the objects, taking into account different materials and their specific characteristics.

Most of the ceramic finds that the restorers work on come from the current excavations in Hallstatt, Roseldorf, Brunn am Gebirge and Grub/Kranawetberg.
The ceramics are first cleaned using chemicals or machines – unless, of course, they are so fragile that special treatment is needed. Then all the fragments that fit together are identified and glued together.
Especially in the case of ceramic objects found in graves as offerings, it is not uncommon for restorers to reconstruct a vessel almost in its entirety.
In such cases, missing fragments are replaced with plaster and dyed to match the colour of the vessel. Often it is also necessary to strengthen the vessels by various means such as synthetic resin solutions, CFE and others.

As well as new finds from in-house excavations, the restorers also have to repeatedly rework items from the storage rooms which have already been restored but have deteriorated over many decades or even centuries. This most often involves removing old restoration materials before the objects can be re-restored using techniques similar to those used on new finds.