Work placement students give a boost to the West Stow Small Finds Archive

Posted 20th September 2015

Two work placement students from the University of Leicester, Samantha Jenkins and Michael Place, have been working on improving West Stow’s Small Finds Archive over the summer. The Archive is a collection of smaller objects found on the site during the excavation in 1965-1972. From repacking and labelling objects, to cataloguing them on the museum’s database, the students have successfully started the project of improving the archive of over 3000 items.

Having completed the documentation of the knives in the archive, Michael Place commented on the project, saying: “It was important that the objects were moved from their previous storage of field bags and acidic foam. The conditions in which the knives were stored were woefully inadequate and put the objects at risk of deterioration.”

The old packaging of one of the knives, which has caused visable deteriorationThe knives have been repacked in museum quality Plastazote foam and clear plastic boxes, which will comfortably hold the objects without the risk of further deterioration from harmful gasses that can be released from acidic materials, and will also allow for easier access. Each knife has also been labelled for easy identification using the Paraloid method, which is long-lasting, but can be removed if necessary with no damage to the object. This method involves using different solutions of Paraloid (a thermoplastic resin) on which the label is written, meaning no permanent mark is made on the object.

Small find knives in Plastazote foam after re-packingThe knives were lastly documented on the museum database, which now includes descriptions of each piece, their measurements, and any conservation work which has been undertaken. After working on the documentation, Samantha Jenkins said: “It was very fun documenting the knives. We needed to do a fair bit of research using the Site Reports, and catalogue cards from the Ancient Monuments Laboratory, which undertook conservation work on the objects in the 1970s, as well as measuring each knife and simply making sure the physical object we had in front of us matched the descriptions and images in the books and on the cards. We did have a few knives that had been placed in the incorrect bag, probably in the 1970s, that initially caused some confusion, but a bit of hard work and investigation resolved almost all of the problems, and we now have an accurate catalogue of the knives found on the site.”

Altogether, 59 objects have been completed, which is a great start to the project that the two students have been undertaking alongside many others in the past few weeks. West Stow looks forward to the completion of the next section of the archive.