The 2008 Silver Swan Conservation Project - week 7
Day 31 - 13 October
Today, Matthew will be removing the last remaining part, the neck and head structure which is all in one piece. This will be dismantled by mid-morning. The vertebrae will then be removed and documented, starting at the top and working down to the bottom like a doctor would do to a patient.
Day 32 - 14 October
Yesterday the neck structure was removed. This consists of lever followers connected to the head and neck of the Swan by 5 fusee chains of varying thicknesses. These chains are the originals and were designed 100 years before the Victorian period. Children of the ages 7,8, 9 and young mothers were the ones who made these by hand.
The chains run over a series of rollers within the neck and are connected to the operation of the lower neck, upper neck, nodding of the head, movement of the fish in the Swan’s mouth and lower part of its bill.
The design of this part of the machine has a different feel to it than the rest of the object, it has an ingenious design and is beautifully executed and therefore maybe the work of Merlin.
Merlin, a celebrated inventor of the time was one of the men commissioned by James Cox to help with the making of the object.
Day 33 - 15 October
Last night the outer vertebrae were left to soak in a white spirit atmosphere to soften the oil residue.
Today Matthew and Karen will wash all these parts and document them.
This afternoon the specialist conservators will move on to unpinning the head and dismantling the rollers. Matthew is not quite sure if removing the pins between the “inner vertebrae” will be sensible is it could be a case of “the cure being worse than the disease”. It maybe decided to clean the structure as a whole.
Day 34 - 16 October
Yesterday the “inner vertebrae” were dismantled for the first time in a century. Matthew found that the pins he was questioning are easily removable and so he can thoroughly clean each link. The good craftsmanship and beautiful work which was required to make this part of the neck is a joy to see. When it was originally created it would have taken one man around a month to make as each piece had to be filed to perfection.
The chains are of equally fine workmanship. The finest chain has 170 links and an estimated 700 pieces riveted together. These will have been made by very small hands, possibly by young mothers and their children.
And finally it has been noted how much thicker the current neck spring is than the original one made in the 18th century. It may be possible in future to make a new neck spring which is more a replica of the earlier version than its 1970’s replacement. The later version does not allow the head to bend right down towards the fish as it should, and is not as flexible.
Day 35 - 17 October
Yesterday saw the whole of the “inner vertebrae” being taken apart. There are 30 links and each consists of a link with a roller frame, 2 large rollers for the neck operating chains, 2 small rollers so the bill and fish inside its mouth can move and 3 pins to hold it together.
Today will see the intensive cleaning and documentation of each piece.
For a full BBC INside Out film of the Silver Swan please click on the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/check/england/realmedia/insideout/northeast/090114_io_north_east_swan?size=16x9&bgc=C0C0C0&nbram=1&bbram=1&nbwm=1&bbwm=1
To be kept informed about The Bowes Museum please click here