by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer
with thanks to Steve Conway, Decant Officer

Today’s post is designed to give you an update on the ambitious project we’re undertaking to conserve and display 14 ship’s figureheads, which we’re taking on loan from the National Museum of the Royal Navy. These iconic carvings will be displayed in The Box when it opens in 2020.

You may remember us sharing some information about this project late last year when two of the figureheads left the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre to go to London for analysis and conservation work. You can read our post here.

Today we have a small series of video clips to share with you and give an insight into the work that’s been going on since.

The two figureheads that were taken up to London are called Royal William and Topaze. We have been piloting different analysis and conservation methods on them to help determine the most effective ways to restore and preserve all the figureheads. This work has been made possible thanks to funding support from Interreg.

Find out more in this recap video.

Many of the figureheads will be suspended from the ceiling in the main foyer of The Box – providing a real spectacle for visitors when they enter the building. In order to achieve this we need to calculate their centre of gravity so our structural engineer can design the correct fixings for them. Find out how we’re doing this in our next video clip.

The analysis work on Royal William and Topaze has revealed some really fascinating results. In particular, we’ve been using a process called sonic tomography to check the condition of the timber inside them. This is a technique most commonly used on trees.

Sonic tomography uses ultrasound to build a picture of the interior wood. This allows us to zoom in and treat areas of rotten timber, strengthening the figureheads internally without damaging all the amazing carved detail on their exteriors.

Hear more about this from our conservation specialists.

We’ll have another post to bring you right up to speed with the progress on our figureheads project tomorrow. In the meantime, we hope these short videos provide a good overview of some the amazing conservation work that’s currently being carried out behind the scenes. Happy viewing!