19th century Chinese Ivory Tiered Basket

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Condition

  • Basket collapsed while it was in storage due to rapid humidity fluctuations causing the ivory to warp

  • The critical challenge was to safely reassemble over 40 broken pieces into its original structure, while keeping the treatment unobtrusive to the object and the audience.

Treatment

  • Cleaning:

    • Nd:YAG Laser cleaning of ivory surface after extensive analysis of non-aqueous method of cleaning eg. gels and poultices

    • Removal of copper corrosion staining using weak EDTA solution Laponite poultice.

    • Removal of old repair using animal glue and plaster causing mold growth

  • Reassembly:

    • Built controllable humidification chamber to gradually flatten and condition the ivory fragments.

    • Reattach fragments by facing Japanese tissue paper and weak Klucel adhesive.

    • Create a temporary mount for domed lid by calculating the center of mass and weight distribution

    • Carve structural replacements using synthetic ivory (Elforyn).

    • ​Design and make bespoke storage/transport boxes based on V&A examples.

Cleaning

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During laser cleaning 

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Before and after laser cleaning on a basket base

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Before and after laser cleaning on a ivory handle with deep relief carving

Reassembly

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Before and after rejoining mortice and tenon joint 

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Before and after facing ivory panel fragments with japanese tissue paper

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Synthetic ivory replacement (Elforyn) samples of different colour next to the original ivory

Replacement: Elforyn 

Genuine ivory cannot be acquired anymore due to  surrounding ethical issues.

 

Instead, Elforyn was produced by a German company as a synthetic alternative which behaves, feels, and look identical to ivory. 

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Elforyn used to make missing structural parts (<1cm)

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1. Template made out of existing ivory spine used for supporting the lid

2. Cutting Elforyn using a jeweller's saw

3. Heating Elforyn to bend into shape

4. Comparison of Elforyn (right) to original (left) making sure the curvature is correct

5. Elforyn spine with a central strip to create a groove where panels will sit during assembly.

6. Elforyn spin next to original. New replacement not carved to make distinction in future.

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Mount Making

Mount made out of conservation grade materials with plastazote cushioning.

Fool-proof labelling based on V&A mount.

Uses sliding method so that carrier has minimal contact with the actual object.

Cushioning underneath the lid to support the weight of the dome

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Two storage boxes: Detachable baskets and a main frame 

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