Conservation Corner: How to Care for Your Jewellery

on Friday, 18 October 2019.

Jewellery has been a part of life since prehistoric times. Examples can be found from archaeological digs as grave goods adorning the deceased to signify their status or position in society. Although jewellery may have started as practical objects such as brooches or fibulae, the ancient equivalent of a safety pin, over time increased skills in metal work allowed more ornate items to be created. Combined with precious stones, these more elaborate designs were used to ornament every part of the body, protecting the wearer against life’s dangers or marking their status.

On the whole, jewellery today is seen as the finishing touch to an outfit, or reserved for special occasions. However, they still hold the same significance in modern day life, whether gifted from a loved one holding personal importance or a large expensive engagement ring showing off the social status of your betrothed. As with anything precious, we all want to know how best to take care of it.

At the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we are holding a talk on how to do exactly that. Kayleigh Spring from the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (part of Wiltshire Council) will talk you through the basics in jewellery care. Focusing predominately on silver, Kayleigh will discuss why that tarnish layer might be protecting your jewellery, what materials to avoid when cleaning and packing your jewellery in storage, and demonstrate how to effectively clean and polish without eroding details. But here are some quick tips to keep your jewellery dazzling:

1. Put Polishing on Probation
Although it’s sometimes necessary to give jewellery a polish to maintain its lustre, polishivng too often can erode the surface of the metal potentially removing important patterns and details.
2. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
If you have an item of jewellery you only wear on special occasions try to ensure it is clean before packing it back into your jewellery box. Build-up of dirt can increase the chance of corrosion and tarnish.
3. Keep Your Mitts Off
Acids and oils on our fingers tips can eat into the surface of the metal leaving finger print marks. Try to ensure your hands are recently cleaned and dried before handling your jewellery.

To find out more, why not join Kayleigh in the conservation lab on 20th November between 2 to 3pm. Booking required in advance at £4 per ticket by contacting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre helpdesk on 01249 705500.

The Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) aims to promote excellence in the care and use of collections by providing conservation advice and practical treatments to heritage organisations and the public. It also supports museums in Wiltshire to meet professional standards and become sustainable.

If you would like conservation advice about your own documents or objects, we hold a free ‘Conservation Surgery’ on the 2nd Thursday of every month (please book in advance through the WSHC helpdesk – 01249 705500)

Kayleigh Spring, Conservator (Objects)

Back to the Middle Ages Family Fun Day!

on Tuesday, 15 October 2019.

Our annual free family fun day is just around the corner, Saturday 2nd November, at the end of half term. Head over to see us between 10am-4pm and travel back to the Middle Ages!

At this year’s family fun day on Saturday 2nd November visitors can travel back in time to join the College of Chivalry and have a go at long bow archery and watch knights in training with Swindon-based Black Cat Archery. The medieval-themed day also features Wiltshire Scrapstore providing creative craft activities for all the family.

The annual event is a chance for families to see the amazing work that goes on behind the scenes at the History Centre and meet the experts – the archivists, archaeologists and conservators – who look after the county’s historic records and archaeology.

Visitors to the conservation labs – not normally open to the public – will be able to play detective using x-ray images to identify mystery objects and discover just how destructive bugs and pests can be to medieval documents.

The packed programme also includes living history exploring the lives of medieval women and the work of a barber surgeon, plus displays of rare documents, the story of Wiltshire’s lost medieval villages, and a chance to inspect grisly coroners’ records.

Refreshments will be available at the ever popular pop-up Heritage Café.

We'd love to see you there!

New Accessions: April to June

on Thursday, 25 July 2019.

Here at the History Centre we continue to acquire new collections which reflect the activities and achievements of our county. Here is a brief overview of some of the collections we have received between April to June.

Warminster Farming Club (reference 2203A)

The latest of our 200+ Women’s Institute collections arrived in May courtesy of the Ashton Keynes group (reference 4462). The series of minute books (1988-2016) and programmes (2002-2013) demonstrate the group’s diverse interests and activities, including their events, talks and charitable work. Similar in nature are the archives of the Warminster Farming Club (reference 2203A). The club was originally formed in 1927 as the Wiltshire Association of Dairy Students. The club’s minutes cover the years 1954 and continue until the branch disbanded in 2011. There is much to discover as to the group’s activities, discussions and achievements. The records of clubs and societies will provide much in the way of local and social history interest to future generations.

Urban Vocal Group Never Had They Ever project. (1709A)

One of the most recently created collections comes from a 2018 project by the Portsmouth-based charity Urban Vocal Group (reference 1709A). The UVG is a youth music project, supporting people living in disadvantaged or challenging circumstances. The History Centre was one of a number of heritage organisations who supported their HLF-funded Never Had They Ever project. The group used archive collections to explore women’s experiences in World War 1. Groups from Salisbury and Portsmouth undertook archival research and recorded their own songs and spoken-word accounts based on their discoveries. The resulting CD and resource pack, which features lyrics and proposed school activities, makes a welcome addition to our collections.

The Western Counties Road Records Association (reference 2516A)

The Western Counties Road Records Association (reference 2516A) was formed in 1933, as one of several regional groups organising and adjudicating attempts on road cycling records. The collection details the many attempts both on place-to place-routes (such as Swindon to Bournemouth and back) or set distances such as a designated 25 mile route.  The series of minute books also documents the interaction between the various affiliated cycling across the region. In addition, there are accounts of the many successful and unsuccessful records attempts.

The Fussells Garage (reference 3678A) has been a landmark business for almost a century. The garage was originally established by Percy Fussell in Chirton in 1922 selling new and used cars. The business was subsequently run in partnership with Wadman of Market Lavington as Fussell Wadman, and relocated to Northfields, where it continues to trade. Their archive was kindly donated by Percy’s son Tom who eventually took over the business. The collection includes sales ledgers, wages books, and payment and asset books, which tells us much of the development of the car trade during this period as cars became more prevalent. Sales ledgers also provide clients’ names and addresses including many local businesses. Other ledgers outline car parts and manufacturing which will be useful to those interested in car restoration

Lansdowne House, Long Street, Devizes (3661A)

We have received various documents related to specific properties around the county. For example, collection 3661A covers 50 years in the history of the ownership of Lansdowne House, Long Street, Devizes. The earliest document dates from 1829 and refers to the house being on almshouse land. The property still survives, and through this collection of leases, conveyances and mortgages we can chart the owners or occupiers of this property.

Legal papers and property documents pertaining to various properties north and east of Swindon (2296A)

Similarly, 2296A is a collection of legal papers and property documents pertaining to various properties north and east of Swindon. These include a house in Beast Market, Highworth, and parcels of land called Okeys and Berrycroft in Wanborough. The collection also includes a 1704 marriage settlement between John Hawkins of Stanton Fitzwarren and Joane Lightfoot of Highworth, plus the probate for several wills of the parish of Highworth from between 1729 and 1850.

The Wiltshire Local History Forum was formed in 1985. It’s aims were to assist the work of local history societies in Wiltshire, to represent the interests of Wiltshire historians, and to work with the British Association for Local History in fostering historical studies in Wiltshire. This collection (reference 2903A) includes their minutes and accounts, plus details of the many oral history schools, open days and other events and working-partnerships to which the Trust was committed. The collection shows the breadth of their work and interests and concludes by documenting the dissolving of the trust earlier this year.

In addition to acquiring these new collections, we have also received additional documents to existing archives. Our records of the Swindon and Marlborough Methodist Circuit have been supplemented by documents for the Queen’s Drive chapter (reference 4045/2/10). These include records of donations (1995-2016), journals (1995-2016) plus a drawing for a proposed new church (1958). The collection also includes documents relating to the Young Wives Club, which was established by nine “young wives” of the Park South estate in 1957. Their documents include committee minute book (1957-1987), plus service programmes which document the many talks and discussion evenings arranged by the club.

Our Council’s Education Department files have been further enhanced by a selection of papers of the Swindon School’ Athletic Association (reference F8/960); specifically, a series of minute books from the Association’s cricket club. These 3 volumes begin with their inaugural meeting in May 1931 and continue until 2006. The meetings discuss a wide range of issues including events, venues, match reports, threats to facilities and interaction with many organisations.

Royal Wootton Bassett Academy (F8/700/28/1/22/5)

Also new to our Education Department is an accrual of records from Royal Wootton Bassett Academy (reference F8/700/28/1/22/3-5). These photograph albums and scrapbooks were compiled by members of the school’s Despenser House between 1981 and 1990, and contain both formal and informal photographs, newsletters and evidence of the various fund-raising activities the pupils undertook in aid of Comic Relief and Guide Dogs for the Blind. These volumes are now join the school’s collection of governors' minutes, admissions registers and school newsletters here at the History Centre.

Our collection of records of the Trustees of the Duchess of Somerset's Hospital at Froxfield (3637) now include a booklet to commemorate the tricentenary of the hospital in 1986 (3637/73), a 2013 resident’s handbook (3637/74) and invitations to a Founder’s Day service and Open Day, both in 2018 (3637/76). Similarly, the Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust collection (2850) has been enhanced by recent annual reports and minutes covering 2008-2014, which now means our collection for the Trust covers some sixty years from its inaugural meeting in 1954 onwards.

We are grateful to all our donors for contributing their collections which further the historic study of Wiltshire. Details of all our holdings are available via our online catalogue. The collections themselves are available to browse in our reading room in Chippenham.

David Plant, Archivist

How to care for your works of art at home

on Thursday, 25 July 2019.

Works of art are lovely to display at home, but are very susceptible to damage by light, heat, humidity and dust. Colours tend to fade in direct light, temperature fluctuations cause paper to move, becoming distorted, or very dry and brittle. Here, I will be sharing some tips for the long term storage and display of your watercolours or other works of art at home.

Ideally, priceless heirlooms or antique paintings and prints are best stored long term in acid free packaging away from light and heat. However, you probably want to be able to display these so that you can view and enjoy them.

Displaying in a Frame:

It is best to remove artwork from old frames and mounts to prevent further damage, if there are any nice or valuable frames, these can be re-used providing the mount and backboard are changed, or kept separate to the item. Display your framed artwork in a place away from direct light and heat sources (not above a radiator) to protect sensitive media, such as watercolours and inks, all of which are susceptible to irreversible light damage.

Colourful inks can be susceptible to light damage

To display your artwork, choose a framer who does conservation standard framing, most reputable framers will do this. To find an accredited framer, the Fine Art Trade Guild  is a good resource; you can search for a Guild certified framer in your area by postcode.

Conservation framing uses high quality acid and lignin free, alkaline buffered mounts and reversible hinging to frame works of art, so unlike with standard or shop bought frames there will be no damage from the board, mount and wood that is often used. Ordinary paper, cardboard and wood backboards contain high quantities of acid which will break down paper fibres and cause discoloration in the form of brown stains, and adhesive tape can cause staining to paper and become loose as it ages.

Adhesive tape has caused permanent damage the pages of this book


If you are happy to store them in archival packaging, acid free materials will prolong the life of these items, so that they may be enjoyed by future family members. There are many packaging options available to purchase: An acid free folder is ideal for individual works of art or up to 10 items. Or for large collections of artwork and other paper based material, an acid free box would create a stable inner climate for the artwork, to prevent damage from environmental fluctuations caused by central heating. If items are kept in drawers, it is useful to line drawers with a sheet of acid free paper to protect the artwork from acid and lignin damage from close proximity with wood.

Look out for old packaging, such as envelopes, cardboard boxes and yellowing glassine paper (glassine is thin tissue paper with a smooth shiny surface), as these will cause damage to paper. Sorting your collections into new, safe packaging can be a great project to do at home.

Above: an example of an archival folder for a single document or artwork

How to manage deterioration factors:

• One way to manage light exposure is by frequently changing/rotating the pictures you have on display, so that they are not on display in the same position and with the same lighting for years on end.
• You can also buy UV light filtering film to go on your windows which will help to reduce UV light exposure.
• Turning electric lights off when they are not in use and closing curtains and blinds when you are away will also help.

Environment- temperature and humidity
• Avoid attic and basement spaces as these tend to have unstable temperature and humidity- basements can be particularly damp
• Where possible try not to hang or display artworks near or directly over a radiator or heat source
• Outside walls can be prone to damp, check before hanging or displaying an artwork

CMAS conservators would be happy to advise on safe packaging or framing techniques for your artwork. If you have any preservation or conservation queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Or to find a conservator in your area, go to the Conservation Register where you can search for a conservator by location or specialism.

Sophie Coles, Conservator

Be inspired by Creative Wiltshire at Salisbury Museum

on Thursday, 25 July 2019.

We are delighted that the Creative Wiltshire exhibition at Salisbury Museum has been extended to 29th September 2019, so you still have a couple of months to see some of the items purchased as part of this Heritage Lottery Funded five year project, as it comes to its close this autumn. The exhibition has been curated by our exhibitions trainee, Emily Smith, who has gained valuable ‘hands on’ experience of museum work by staging the exhibition and we would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to her for doing a fantastic job. While this project has been about purchasing items and objects with strong creative Wiltshire connections, it has also been about providing training for people involved in heritage services within the county and inspiring others to be creative, by drawing attention to our rich vein of creators both past and present. Hopefully it will inspire you too!

The exhibition had a busy half term week in May and ran workshops with artist Charlie James focusing on some of the techniques used and inspired by work on display; fabric printing, making 3D robots, clay modelling, etching and watercolour painting. The results below will show you what talented youngsters we have!

We would like to thank Salisbury Museum for being involved with the project and for hosting the final exhibition, and other participating museums; Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Swindon Local Studies, Chippenham Museum, Pewsey Heritage Centre, Athelstan Museum, Bradford on Avon Museum, Trowbridge Museum and the Edwin Young Gallery. 

We have really enjoyed working with you all, so a massive ‘thank you’ to all the museum staff and volunteers who have been involved.

Joy Bloomfield, Project Officer

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