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Caring for Our Shipwreck Heritage

Guidelines on the First Aid Treatment and Conservation Management of Finds Recovered from Designated Wreck Sites Resulting from Licensed Investigations

1 Background
These guidelines provide a framework for planning and managing artefact conservation on designated wrecks for licensees and their diving teams in English waters, as well as giving advice on best practice for the first aid treatment of marine finds in accordance with English Heritages Accessing Englands Protected Wreck Sites: Guidance Notes for Divers and Archaeologists 2010. Project planning guidance is based on English Heritages document Management of Research Projects in the Historic Environment (Lee 2006) (MoRPHE). A simplified version of the MoRPHE project management scheme, as it relates to conservation management, is shown in Table 1. This covers the main elements relating to the planning and management of any artefacts and materials retrieved to be included in your project design. These guidelines also contain first aid and other practical advice relating to artefact recovery and conservation, based principally on the publication First Aid for Underwater Finds (Robinson 1998). Initial conservation advice may also be sought from the EH Maritime Archaeology Team (maritime@ Other important information relating to your responsibilities towards reporting artefacts recovered is available from the Receiver of Wreck on 02380 329 474 or These Guidelines are underpinned by the principle, enshrined in law, that the protection of certain wreck sites is for the common good. In this context English Heritage strongly encourages legal owners to arrange for artefacts in their possession, which have come from protected wreck sites, to be acquired for the public benefit, as recommended in Our Portable Past (English Heritage 2006).



project documents

project brief research agenda


conservation strategy, document including first aid conservation plan


conservation records

aims and objectives potential resources


assessment report selection/retention policy updated project design


report for publication/archive




Table 1 How conservation fits into the MoRPHE project management scheme (Lee 2006)

human activity. These shipwrecks, along with their contents and associated materials, are a non-renewable resource each is unique and irreplaceable. We all have a duty to see that wreck sites are protected from damage and loss, however it is being caused.

condition so that preventive action can be taken if damage is being caused.

4 The purposes of the licensing system

The licensing system exists to ensure that any person planning any activity on a protected wreck site is both competent and properly equipped to carry out operations appropriate to its historical and archaeological importance. This activity must be compatible with any Conservation Management Plan for the site (if available), and must be with the full knowledge and approval of the English Heritage Designation HPR Team. It is an offence for any other person to obstruct, or cause to be obstructed, any activity being undertaken by a licensee allowed by their licence. English Heritage may defray or contribute towards the cost of any work undertaken on a Protected Wreck Site by a licensee, including survey, excavation or other investigation. This may also include the preservation and maintenance of a Protected Wreck, or the removal of all or any part of it to another place for the purpose of preserving it.

3 Wreck protection
A number of shipwreck sites in UK waters are designated under section 1 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (the 1973 Act) by virtue of their archaeological, historical or artistic importance. The 1973 Act effectively protects these sites against disturbance and damage from uncontrolled activities, but provides for managed access to the sites for suitably trained and experienced divers and others who wish to investigate these wrecks in a pre-planned, controlled and responsible way. Visits to these sites are to be encouraged as a way of fostering an interest in and appreciation of the marine historic environment. Visits to wreck sites are particularly to be welcomed from archaeologically trained divers as a way of monitoring their

2 Introduction
Shipwrecks are among the most interesting, exciting and evocative evidence from the past. They are an invaluable resource for research and for furthering our understanding of the history of our maritime nation. Wrecks are often remarkably well preserved owing to the special qualities of the marine environment, but they can also be at risk from various natural causes of disturbance, and from direct and indirect

5 Your licence to operate

Four types of licence are available for archaeological investigation under the 1973 Act. Of these, only two allow removal of material: one permitting surface recovery of artefacts, and a second allowing for excavation. Before being granted a licence to recover materials from a Protected Wreck Site, you will be expected to provide a justification for why you intend to retrieve material from the seabed and how this will meet the aims and objectives of your project design. You must also be able to demonstrate in your project design that you have a firm grasp of the principles of first aid conservation, and that you have appropriate plans and preparations in place for the safe recovery of finds and arrangements for the long-term care of finds and the associated archive.

the receiving museum where you have an agreement to deposit the archive. You will also be expected to have made contact with a suitably qualified conservator, who must be named in the project design and who has agreed to provide you with conservation advice and services during the project. It is a condition of your licence that your finds are cared for properly. Until ownership of the wreck material is established by the Receiver of Wreck, any interventional conservation is done at the risk of the finder and with the permission of the Receiver. While ownership is being determined, the finds should normally be kept under passive conservation (ie receive first aid conservation) to prevent deterioration.

give the name and contact details of the conservator or laboratory you have engaged to advise on and conserve your finds state your policy for backfilling or otherwise making good any disturbance you have caused to the site detail how you are intending to compare the current state of the site with previous records in other words how you will be monitoring the rate of change ensure that the museum prepared to receive your archive is accredited with the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) (for further information about archive deposition see Institute for Archaeologists 2001).

Useful information: Contacting a conservator

As part of the surface recovery or excavation licence, you will be expected to have a suitably qualified conservator as part of the project team. The conservator can provide advice during the dive project, and can undertake the conservation assessment of the artefacts during and, especially, at the end of the fieldwork. If you do not already have a suitable contact, then you will find accredited conservators who undertake marine conservation work through the on-line Conservation Register at In compiling your Conservation Strategy you should: identify by name the Project Manager, who will be responsible for seeing all phases of the project work through to completion and closure. list the objects and materials that you anticipate recovering, by predicted type and approximate number provide a timetable showing how you plan the work of recording, conserving and researching your finds outline your plans for publishing or otherwise making accessible the information you recover nominate one member of your team responsible for overseeing the welfare of the artefacts until they are deposited with a museum review your security and insurance arrangements and say how you will minimise risk of loss or damage during storage and transport

7.2 Fieldwork, first aid conservation and finds management plan

The principal aim of first aid conservation is to protect your finds

6 Planning a recovery
Any material brought up from the seabed is immediately divorced from its context, from which it derives much of its meaning and value. The wreck site itself is reduced in archaeological value every time material of any kind is removed or displaced from it, by whatever cause. For these reasons, every action involving finds must be carefully planned and meticulously carried out both during and after the dive, in accordance with the Site Management Plan. Everything recovered forms an integral part of the site archive and the long-term curation and custodianship of the archive must be agreed and assured in advance of any intrusive investigative or remedial work taking place on a designated wreck site.

Useful information
All finds and exposed ships structure visible on the seabed are vulnerable to erosion, corrosion, displacement and loss. Except in special and unusual cases, it is impractical and undesirable to raise major elements of the ships structure, anchors, cannon, bulk cargo and ballast. But personal effects and small items of equipment might be considered for raising, depending on the level of risk of loss if left on the seabed unprotected. It is currently recommended to preserve archaeological shipwreck sites in situ (English Heritage 2002, 12). This is further reinforced by the Valletta Convention (Council of Europe 1992), to which the UK is a signatory. Preferred methods to be used for reburial of features and deposits on the wreck site should be included in the sites Management and Conservation Plan and, at the conclusion of the licensed investigation, should be discussed in the project design. These might include special measures, such as the use of sacrificial anodes for the protection of cannon, anchors and other large exposed metallic items, including hulls, or remedial stabilisation of small areas with geotextiles and sandbags might be necessary. All such proposals should be included in the project design.

7 Project design
The initial project design must include the following components:

7.1 Conservation strategy

You will be required to provide a statement explaining clearly the rationale behind your intention to raise finds from the designated wreck site, how this fits with the Site Management Plan and exactly who you have consulted with in relation to this decision. As well as consulting with your Nominated Archaeologist, you will also have contacted all local heritage bodies with an interest in the wreck, the Receiver of Wreck and with

from physical and chemical damage once they are brought to the surface in other words, to maintain your finds as far as possible in the same condition as they were when first uncovered. The purpose of first aid conservation plan is to demonstrate that you are properly prepared for the recovery of finds and materials and for their best possible care in the short term. You will be required to state what preparations and arrangements you intend to make, with all relevant practical details, including the budget that is earmarked for this work. You should nominate one member of your team to be responsible for the finds and samples. This person should preferably be someone with previous experience and training in finds processing and recording, and someone who clearly understands their responsibilities and duties. He or she should have read First Aid for Underwater Finds (Robinson 1998) before the start of the project.

7.3 First aid conservation

Some important things to do and not to do: Check that objects really are loose and free from their surroundings before attempting to lift them from seabed. Much damage can be caused by attempting to pull up partly buried artefacts they could easily be attached to something else below. If still firmly attached, it is normally best that they are left in place. Use padded strops and adequate support during lifting. Objects are often more fragile than they look, especially when they break surface. Make sure that the larger heavier items are adequately supported in several places and use foam rubber pads to stop strops digging into fragile wood surfaces, for example. Have the right materials, and containers with you in advance of the dive. Make careful preparations for the objects and materials you are planning to lift. Make sure that you have the right size of containers, with tight-fitting lids, packing and labelling materials to ensure safe transport of your finds from site to shore base. Use appropriate labelling and marking materials and see that they cannot be separated from the objects. Plastic Dymo-style printed tape and Tyvek labels with good-quality black spiritbased marker pens are recommended. Also use zip-lock clear polythene

bags with write-on panels and black ballpoint or spirit-based marker pens. For attaching labels to larger objects, use polypropylene (plastic) string, not natural fibre. Keep a basic register of objects as they are recovered, giving each object a unique number. This can be a written record or a computer database or table. A digital photograph of the object (with label and scale) is also useful; and make sure the find-spot is marked on a site plan. Use the log to note what happens to each object as decisions are made. This way, a history for each object can be built up. Keep objects submerged in fresh water at all times until they can be assessed by a conservator and further action planned. This is to reduce salinity, as salt will damage most finds as they dry out. Glazed ceramics should, however, be kept in sea water until assessed by a conservator. Store containers in a cool, dark place at your on-shore base, and change the water every few days, especially if it becomes murky or a scum develops on the surface. Minimise exposure to air and heat for example during photography and recording. It is surprising how fast organic materials will crack or iron objects start to corrode, even after just a few minutes exposure to air and heat. Keep handling to a minimum. Every time you remove an object from its container, it is put under stress and can become damaged. Always carry objects in their containers, not in your hands. When it is necessary to handle objects, make sure they are adequately supported and handled over a padded surface. Separate objects of different materials into different containers to avoid the risk of cross contamination and effects of corrosion products during storage. Transport your finds properly supported and in water-filled containers suitably padded to stop them moving about. Do not let objects jostle against each other in the same container. Concretions and assemblages of objects that are concreted together should be kept as they are and not broken open or otherwise separated until they reach the conservation laboratory and have been X-rayed. X-radiography of the metal objects, concretions and composite artefacts should be undertaken as soon as

possible after recovery. Arrange this through your nominated conservator. This will also tell you a lot about your finds and, especially, what is really inside those concretions. It can also act as a security measure against possible damage and loss. Further information on the uses of X-radiography can be found in Fell et al 2006.

Human remains
Human remains must receive the due attention and care that their special status and importance merits. Bone will often be very fragile, should be handled well supported and stored immersed in water with absorbent foam rubber padding. If you discover skeletal remains that you suspect might be human, leave them in situ and contact the Ministry of Justice (, or in the case of a

Useful information
The degree of survival, and the appearance and condition of marine materials, will depend on the nature of the wreck site. Wrecks may be in deep, medium or shallow waters or even in the intertidal zone; they may be incorporated into the seabed either in gravel, mud or between rocks. Materials from these various locations will have been exposed to different energy levels and burial environments during their time on the seabed and so become degraded to varying extents until reaching some level of chemical and physical equilibrium with their surroundings. If the conditions change, materials will begin to degrade again until a new equilibrium is reached. Ship structure and objects well covered with marine sediment and in deep water will generally be well preserved owing to low oxygen levels, whereas exposed materials in shallow, warm water will be in an advanced state of decay where the oxygen levels are greater. However well preserved objects appear to be, they will have suffered some degree of alteration while buried in marine sediment. Their exposure through excavation will bring them into a higher energy environment, and their state will become dynamic again, leading to further and possibly very rapid deterioration.

war grave contact the Navy Command Headquarters (Heritage and Museums, Navy Command Headquarters, Third Sector Organisation, MP1.3, Leach Building, Whale Island, Portsmouth, PO2 8BY; tel 02392 625620).

8 Updated project design (UPD)

The UPD must include the following components:

Useful information
Conservators often divide up the types of work they do under various headings, which are useful to think about when drafting the conservation assessment and conservation plan. Here are the main categories: first aid conservation any action that ensures the safety of an artefact from the moment of discovery until it undergoes some further conservation process preventive conservation any noninvasive (ie passive) conservation process that slows down or halts the process of deterioration, for example appropriate packaging and storage in a controlled environment, proper controls on access, display and other uses. This is an ongoing process. investigative conservation any process whereby the true nature of an artefact is revealed and recorded, either by indirect means, such as X-radiography, or by direct means, for example removing concretion and corrosion, elemental analysis, species identification or other such procedure. remedial conservation any treatment that aims to stabilise the object so that it can be brought safely to a dry state, or to provide enough extra strength to enable it to be handled and stored normally, or to inhibit corrosion depending on the materials involved. display conservation any further work beyond that included under investigative and remedial conservation that is deemed necessary to fit the object for the purpose of display. This could include re-fixing broken elements, further cleaning and surface enhancement and protection, or the provision of a suitable display mount. retention programme. The assessment reports (described above) should aim both to identify the research potential and significance of the material, and also to flag up which parts of the collection might be disposed of. The views of EH, the designated receiving museum and other stakeholders must be sought before a decision is made as to what should be saved for further conservation and archiving, and what might be disposed of. Options

8.1 Analysis phase

The conservation assessment, together with the other assessments, will lead to the production by the licensee, with advice from the appropriate authorities, of an updated project design (UPD), which will drive the analysis phase. The UPD will detail all further investigative and remedial conservation, sampling and analysis, dating and other research work that is to take place as part of the project. The requirement for further conservation and investigation must be justified and the costs stated. The type and level of work to be undertaken on the finds will be driven by the agreed aims and objectives as outlined either in the original project design or by new aims and objects identified during the assessment phase. The requirements of archive deposition with the designated receiving museum will also need to be considered. The analysis phase is the stage at which the information potential of the finds will be realised, and remedial conservation applied to stabilise the objects. This can be a long process, particularly if organic materials are involved, but the conservator should be able to provide a timetable for completion of the agreed work. Once completed, the stabilised finds will be appropriately boxed or packaged in archival materials ready for transport for research or storage. The conservator and other specialists will provide a report on the work undertaken during the analysis phase, which will include technical information of value to the finds researchers. This report forms part of the analysis phase reports, which should be compiled by the licensee/s of the designated wreck site, with input from the nominated archaeologist, other specialist researchers, and also with possible input from the legal owners (decided by the Receiver of Wreck) and the designated receiving museum. These reports form part of the archive and are to be deposited with the receiving museum.

7.4 Conservation assessment

As part of the project design required by the conditions of your licence, you will be expected to make arrangements with a registered conservation laboratory for further conservation work. You will also be responsible for sourcing the funds for this work to take place. At the conclusion of the dive season, you should arrange for your nominated conservator to carry out a conservation assessment of the assemblage (as defined in MoRPHE Lee 2006) as soon as practicable. This will result in an assessment report, which will include a description of each object, its state of preservation, condition and identification, as far as this can be determined at this stage. Please note that radiography is included in the Fieldwork phase, as defined in MoRPHE, and should therefore be undertaken before conservation assessment. Options for different types and levels of conservation treatment will be set out, with costs, and suggestions for further analysis and other research will be made. The conservator will also check that the find is adequately packaged and stored and may undertake any urgent remedial work that he or she judges to be necessary to enable the find to be stored safely until further conservation work can take place. Priorities for conservation may also be suggested where further prolonged wet storage could cause damage. Also in line with MoRPHE, you will be required to commission assessment reports from appropriate finds researchers and other specialists, who will be able to judge the potential significance of the artefacts and other recovered materials. The conservation assessment must be undertaken in collaboration with the other specialists. If applicable, it will be relevant to look at the archives relating to the conservation history of finds previously raised from the same site.

8.2 Selection, retention and disposal

It is neither practical nor often necessary to conserve and archive everything that has been collected, so this is also the time to implement a selection and

for disposal that could be considered might include offering the material to another museum, heritage or educational organisation. Before any material is dispersed, it must be adequately recorded to current standards (as defined by Brown 2007 and the Institute for Archaeologists 2008 and its fate recorded in the finds register or database.

requirement of your licence that you make arrangements for depositing your archive, in advance of a diving season taking place.

English Heritage 2006 Our Portable Past. publications/our-portable-past/ English Heritage 2010 Accessing Englands Protected Wreck Sites: Guidance Notes for Divers and Archaeologists. Jones, M D (ed) English Heritage publications/guidance-for-divers/ English Heritage 2008 Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance for the Sustainable Management of the Historic Environment. http://www. conservation-principles-sustainablemanagement-historic-environment/ Fell, V Mould, Q, and White, R 2006 , Guidelines on the X-radiography of Archaeological Metalwork. Swindon: English Heritage, http://www. Institute for Archaeologists 2001 Standard and Guidance for the Collection, Documentation, Conservation and Research of Archaeological Materials. Institute for Archaeologists 2008 Code of Conduct. By-laws of the Institute of Field Archaeologists (rev edn November 2008). codes/ifa Institute for Archaeologists 2008 Standard and Guidance for the Collection, Documentation, Conservation and Research of Archaeological Materials. default/files/node-files/ifa_standards_ materials.pdf Lee, E 2006 Management of Research Projects in the Historic Environment: The MoRPHE Project Managers Guide. Swindon: English Heritage, http://www. morphe-project-managers-guide/ OASIS Online AccesS to Index of archaeological investigationS. http:// Portable Antiquities Scheme and York Archaeological Trust 2005 Conservation Advice Notes (16). http://www.finds. Robinson, W 1998 First Aid for Underwater Finds. London: Archetype

Useful information: Materials and equipment suppliers

Some suitable containers and some packaging materials are available from hardware stores or supermarkets. For more specialised labelling materials and equipment, request an up-todate list of suppliers from your nominated conservator or other local archaeological contacts. Also refer to useful listings at the back of Watkinson and Neale 2001 and in Portable Antiquities Scheme and York Archaeological Trust 2005. Other important contacts: Conservation Register: www. English Heritage Designation Department: English Heritage Regional Science Advisors: advice/advice-by-topic/heritagescience/regional-science-advisors/ Marine and Coastguard Agency Receiver of Wreck: uk; tel 02380 329474

8.3 Dissemination
It is the responsibility of the project manager to make available the results of the project by means of academic and popular publications, media and any other appropriate means within a reasonable period of time. Signposting your project intentions and results, using a web-based archaeological sites index, such as OASIS, may be a requirement of your licence. The discovery, conservation and research work on artefacts will, of course, be of particular interest to the public. Your anticipated dissemination methods should be included in your project design and updated project design, along with how the information gained can be used for educational and other public or publicity-focused purposes. These requirements are in line with the Institute for Archaeologists Code of Conduct (IfA 2008) and any conflict between these and the needs of confidentiality, for example for the purposes of security, should be discussed with English Heritage.

8.4 The archive creation, curation and deposition

Every well planned and properly executed archaeological project will result in an archive, which is the primary evidence (notes, plans, photos, artefacts, samples and other records) that have been produced during the course of project. These materials, along with any previously gathered data and materials, constitute the sum of our knowledge of that shipwreck and its environment, in space, time and historical context. It is essential that the archive is put together in a planned and organised manner in line with recommended methodology; that the component parts are formed of longlasting (archival) materials; and that the whole collection is deposited with a suitable MLA (Museums. Libraries and Archives Council) accredited museum. Each museum will issue its own guidelines for how an archive is to be presented, and it is a

9 References and useful links

Bowens, A (ed) 2008 Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice (2nd edn). Portsmouth: Nautical Archaeology Society Brown, D H 2007 Archaeological Archives A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation. Archaeological Archives Forum; http:// archaeological_archives_2011.pdf Council of Europe 1992 European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) [usually referred to as The Valetta Convention]. http://conventions.coe. int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/143.htm English Heritage 2002 Taking to the Water: English Heritages Initial Policy for the Management of Maritime Archaeology in England. http://www.english-heritage.

Publications and Nautical Archaeology Society in association with the National Maritime Museum [out of print] Watkinson, D and Neale, V 2001 First Aid for Finds. London: Rescue and UKIC Archaeology Section

10 Other useful sources

Brunning, Richard, and Watson, Jacqui 2010 Waterlogged Wood: Guidelines on the Recording, Sampling, Conservation and Curation of Waterlogged Wood. Swindon: English Heritage, http://www. waterlogged-wood Karsten A, Graham K, Jones J, Mould Q, Walton Rogers P 2012 Waterlogged Organic Artefacts, Guidelines on their Recovery, Analysis and Conservation Swindon: English Heritage; http://www. waterlogged-organic-artefacts/
The Swash Channel Wreck ( Dave Parham).

These guidelines were written and compiled by Jim Spriggs and Ian Panter, York Archaeological Trust.

We would like to thank the following for providing the images: Todd Stevens (front cover) One of the HMS Colossus cannons Todd Stevens and Dave Parham (inside back cover) The Swash Channel Wreck Dave Parham.

English Heritage is the Governments statutory advisor on the historic environment. English Heritage provides expert advice to the Government on all matters relating to the historic environment and its conservation. For further information and copies of this leaflet, quoting the Product Code, please contact: English Heritage Customer Services Department PO Box 569 Swindon SN2 2YP telephone 0870 333 1181 e-mail

Published August 2012 English Heritage 2012 Edited and brought to press by David M Jones, English Heritage Publishing Designed by Vincent Griffin, English Heritage Imaging and Visualisation Product Code: 51770

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