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Conserving four Anglo-Saxon claw beakers

These Anglo-Saxon, glass claw beakers were excavated from Taplow, Buckinghamshire in 1883. When they arrived at The British Museum they were in a fragmentary condition. All four vessels were restored at various times after their acquisition. In 1983 the Department of Conservation was asked to conserve the beakers for a new permanent display in the Museum's Early Medieval Gallery (Room 41), due to open in 1985.

The glass of two of the vessels (shown here on the left) was extremely thin and fragile, with large areas of loss. The glass fragments had been previously joined to plaster support mounts, which were visually unattractive. For display in the gallery, the support mounts were to be light in weight but strong. The mounts also had to be transparent, should not discolour, and be compatible in appearance with the glass claw beakers. After great deliberation, it was decided to use custom-made glass support mounts.

A complex process of modelling and casting followed. Conservators produced a mould into which molten glass was blown. The result was two clear, glass support mounts, which copied the interior contours of the beakers. Fragments of beaker glass were assembled and joined into position on the new mount using a reversible adhesive. The two beakers and their mounts were further supported by perspex stands.