Conservation of the Radstock Jubilee Drum

on Thursday, 02 September 2021. Posted in Conservation, History Centre, Museums

4 images of side-view of a colourful but tatty drum
Photo 1: Radstock Jubilee Drum Before Treatment

The Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) is based at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. We preserve the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives and provide support to museums, heritage organisations and individuals to care for and conserve historic collections and meet professional standards.

Close-up of side of drum with red, black and white striped paint on wooden body
Photo 2: Detail of painted surface before treatment

According to the UK’s professional conservation body the Institute of Conservation:

‘The purpose of all conservation is to facilitate the public’s access to and enjoyment of our cultural heritage. It helps us understand ourselves and our future by preserving our past.’

So, when a marching band drum from Radstock Museum recently came into the object conservation studio at CMAS, we had to think about how to preserve the history of the object in the best way.

The drum was from the Radstock Jubilee and much of the original paint had cracked and lifted from the surface. There were already large areas of loss, but the main text on the drum remained. It was not the intention for the drum to be used again, instead the Museum planned to place it on display. In discuss with the Museum it was decided that it would be most ethically appropriate to preserve the remaining paint to show the history and use of the object.

A gloved hand with a cotton bud and syringe injecting glue underneath stripe of black paint
Photo 3: Injecting adhesive underneath paint layers

Consolidating

Before we could even clean the drum, the paint needed to be tackled. Any cleaning could have removed more of the original paint. The condition of the paint layer could have been caused by a number of factors:
• Environmental conditions, the wood warps or shrinks when exposed to high or low humidity
• The natural aging of the wood and paint

A gloved hand holding sheet of clear protective material under a heated spatula pressing onto the layer of black paint
Photo 4: Using a heated spatula to bond paint to wooden surface

We preserve the paint by ‘consolidating’. This is a process where we reattach loose or lifting sections of paint in their original locations using an adhesive. This means we need to get the adhesive underneath the paint layer and then try to flatten it back on to the surface so its bonded successfully. A fluid adhesive was injected behind the paint layer and allowed to dry. To bond the paint layer with the wooden surface a heated spatula was used. When the heated spatula is applied to the paint layer (a protective membrane used in between the spatula and original paint just in case) it reactivates the adhesive. The pressure applied causes the paint to flatten and bond to the wooden surface.

Close-up view of the side of the drum showing red, black and white paint layers re-bonded to the surface
Photo 5: Detail of the drum after treatment

Cleaning

We carried out tests on the painted surface to ensure that we selected a solvent that would not remove any of the original paint during cleaning. The painted surface could then be cleaned using cotton wool swabs and the chosen solvent, removing any excess adhesive. The rest of the surface was dry cleaned using a soft brush and museum vacuum.

Image of the full drum with a conservator in a lab wearing gloves, white coat and a mask applying a solvent to the side of the drum with a cotton bud
Photo 6: Carrying out solvent tests on painted surface

With the treatment complete the object was ready to go back on display.

4 images showing all sides of the drum looking clean and neat after treatment
Photo 7: Radstock Jubilee Drum After Treatment

If you would like conservation advice about your own documents or objects, please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kayleigh Spring, Object Conservator

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