Dorset Museum appointed Cliveden Conservation to lift a precious Romano-British pavement mosaic from its floor position and redisplay it vertically in the newly designed atrium.
Summary of the conservation work carried out
Trials were undertaken to understand the construction of the mosaic before it was carefully lifted by dividing it into manageable sections. 21 panels each weighing 200kg plus, were transported to the work for conservation treatment and cladding.
The mosaic panels were turned face down, and the back carefully ground off to retain c.30mm of the cement screed (sufficient to keep the tesserae secure, but enough to lessen weight of panels).
Aluminium honeycomb panels were cut to approximate size, and a structural adhesive was used to secure this to the rear of the mosaic. Panels were cut to shape, leaving a small border to allow each panel to register.
Panels were turned face-up to plot and design a fixing system. Facing material was removed and the mosaic cleaned. Damaged areas were filled and repaired, and removed tesserae checked to allow the panels to register when placed together.
A structural fixing frame was designed in conjunction with engineers and cladding specialists. With panels in situ, the line of tesserae removed at the start was refixed. The mosaic was given a final clean and wax.
Cliveden Conservation successfully conserved, re-backed and reinstalled the Roman mosaic in the new atrium stairwell at Dorset Museum. The mosaic design, which consists of the head of Neptune, two dolphins and red-finned fish, can now be enjoyed from a different perspective within the museum.
The project has since been shortlisted for the Restoration Conservation Project of the Year, Museums + Heritage Awards 2021.
Advisory and material analysis | Decorative arts
What we did
“It’s been a joy to watch not only the reinstallation of the mosaic which dominates our atrium space in the new Dorset Museum, but also to witness the wonder on visitors’ faces when they see this imposing structure on the wall. The sheer scale as you look up from the walk way is breath-taking.”
David Goulden, Head of Marketing Communications at Dorset Museum