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On Wed 26 October, around 120 Dino fans joined us for our latest Open Day to see up close the second phase of the conservation programme currently being carried out by Skillington Workshop.

Our team of professional conservators, education specialists and artists explained the conservation work happening on the other side of the fence through activities the whole family could enjoy.

The Open Days are part of our programme to increase understanding of why these Grade 1-listed sculptures require on-going specialist conservation. Although they’ve been voted London’s favourite public sculptures, the work required to stabilise and protect them is just beginning.

Image 1: Conservation on the other side of the fence

Conservation on the other side of the fence

Before venturing on to the island, the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs conservation team explained what is being done to combat the severe deterioration attacking the sculptures.

Sometimes, the principles and techniques of conservation can be difficult to understand. Our film ‘The Seven Deadly Agents of Destruction‘ is a great introduction to what the Dinos are up against.

The seven sculptures being worked on at the moment are suffering from cracking due to a range of ‘evil agents’:

Plant growth causing problems for this poor ichthyosaur

Plant growth causing problems for this poor ichthyosaur

  • ‘The Creeping Terror’ causes the growth of plants and other living things on the surface and within the Dinos: existing micro-cracks are enlarged and protective coatings are broken down;
  • ‘Dr Drip’s’ malevolent influence saturates bodies and flippers with water, erodes foundations and causes corrosion in unseen metal armatures;
  • ‘Captain Cold’s’ breath freezes moisture in the concrete matrix and propagates tiny cracks into much larger problems.
Dino ‘eyes’ and ‘horns’ prepared earlier for the Open Day

Dino ‘eyes’ and ‘horns’ prepared earlier for the Open Day

To demonstrate the skills and techniques conservators need to treat cracks, we set up a table of ‘Dinosaur parts’ in need of help. Kids could try their hands at filling the gaps and replacing lost material with Plaster of Paris. Then the fills had to be painted in, so the repairs blended with the original material.

More than just a bit of fun, this not only demonstrated some of the practical skills that conservators use but also helped us explain the difficult choices we make when selecting materials for conservation. Gap-filling material has to fulfil a range of strict requirements, such as:

Jill and India from the FCPD conservation team supervise some good work

Jill and India from the FCPD conservation team supervise some good work

  • being able to bond to the original material;
  • fill the gap effectively without shrinking;
  • have properties that allow it to be smoothed, modelled and painted so visual enjoyment of the sculpture is not disrupted;
  • be weaker and more porous than the original material so that in the event of any deterioration, the new material will be lost rather than the important original;
  • be of a known composition, so it does not accidentally trigger any unwanted chemical reactions.
Mark from Skillington Workshop explaining the conservation approach on the island tour

Mark from Skillington Workshop explaining the conservation approach on the island tour

After all this thinking and working, it was a relief to visit the island and see the professionals taking care of the conservation. David and Mark from Skillington Workshop took tour groups right up to the edge of their site to discuss the ethics and practicalities of their work.

Details of the next conservation open day on Saturday 26 November are available on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

With huge thanks to: David Carrington and Mark Porter from Skillington Workshop, the FCPD conservation team (Jill Barnard, India Carpenter, Louise Peddie and Hazel Gardiner), other Friends (David Vallade, Ellinor Michel, Erykah Brackenbury), id verde UK (Tomas Vnucak), Bromley (Penny Read) and Friends of Crystal Palace Park (Lucy Hopkins).

Rebecca Bennett, FCPD Conservation Team

 
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