X-ray and photograph of sword and pommel

About this image

Iron sword from the Viking Cemetery at Townfoot Farm, Cumwhitton, Cumbria. Detail of the pommel and its accompanying X-radiogaph shows the remains of the intricate inlaid decoration © Historic England

Archaeological Conservation

Archaeological conservators carry out the conservation of objects made from most material types. The objects come from both terrestrial and marine sites.

We work with archaeologists, finds specialists, curators, illustrators and other archaeological scientists to understand the objects recovered from excavations and to preserve them for future generations. Search the report database to find out more about our work.

Investigative conservation

We use a range of techniques to enhance the recording and interpretation of objects. Information about the creation, use, modification and burial of objects helps inform the understanding of past societies. Studying the condition of objects informs how we can  protect others still buried on site (in situ preservation).

Remedial and preventative conservation

We are also involved in the preservation of objects for future study, storage and display. This can involve remedial conservation (e.g. drying of waterlogged organic artefacts to stabilise them) or preventive conservation (e.g. storing material in controlled environments to slow down or stop deterioration).

What we can offer

We provide conservation advice and provide quality assurance for all stages of archaeological projects from project initiation to archive deposition.

We undertake research projects to support the wider archaeological community. We develop and test new methodologies and approaches in response to practical issues.

Our work directly informs the advice we provide and the guidance documents we produce.


The facilities and range of equipment we have at our laboratory in Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth enables us to undertake a whole range of investigative and remedial conservation work.

This includes:

  • X-radiography: comprising large-scale chamber and computed radiography (industrial)
  • Fourier-transform infra-red (FTIR) spectroscopy
  • Optical and electron microscopy
  • X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy
  • X-ray diffractometry
  • Vacuum freeze dryer
  • Airbrasives

Who we are

Karla Graham and Angela Middleton provide advice on most aspects of archaeological conservation covering objects from both terrestrial and marine sites.

We sit on the Archaeology Group committee of our professional body: the Institute of Conservation (Icon) and are members of the South Region Conservation Network.

Karla Graham is an Accreditation Assessor for the Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers (PACR) scheme.

Angela Middleton sits on the committee for the Archaeological Leather Group.

Advice on facilities and conservation laboratories available for commercial and other work can be obtained from the Conservation Register of the Institute of Conservation (Icon).

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