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Conserving an amphorisk (a small vessel resembling an amphora in form)

Many British Museum objects travel to museums all over the world for exhibition. Before an object can be sent on loan, conservators assess its condition. Objects need to be stable for the rigours of travel and increased handling. If an artefact appears vulnerable or fragile, conservators may suggest treatment to increase its stability. They may even recommend that the object is not suitable for travel. The Sutri grave group, which includes two glass amphorisks (small vessels resembling an amphora in form), was assessed for loan to Italy, in 2000.

On inspection, conservators noted that the joins on one of the blue-green amphorisks were unstable, indicating the old adhesive was failing. In addition, a large area of loss to one side had 'sharp' edges that could be caught easily or snagged through handling or packing.

The unstable vessel was dismantled using solvents. Due to the thinness of the glass, a technique for joining using capillary action was required. The long narrow neck of the amphorisk did not allow access to the inside of the vessel and so the fragments were carefully assembled in two large sections, using tape. Drops of epoxy resin were placed onto the joins. The adhesive was then drawn into them by capillary action. Once set, the tape was removed and any excess adhesive cleaned away with solvents. A thin sheet of epoxy resin was cast in the shape of the missing area. When the resin had set, the conservator heated the sheet, bending it to fit snugly against the interior contours of the missing area. The gap-fill was painted a similar turquoise colour to the rest of the amphorisk. The support fill was made and adhered into position using a reversible adhesive.