Conservation of a plaster cast of a Maya monument from Quiriguá
The British Museum holds more than 400 plaster casts from Ancient Maya sites in its collection storage. These form part of the collection of Alfred Maudslay, who travelled through Central America and Mexico in the 1880s and explored many ancient Maya sites, taking photographs and having moulds made of the monuments.
The back of the object shows the extent of the cracks and loss of plaster along the central metal dowel.
The cast has 3 metal supports running vertically through the cast, one on each end and one in the centre. The metal gives strength to the overall structure of the cast but at the same time there is an area of vulnerability at the interface between the metal and the plaster. The materials have different flexibility and rate of expansion and contraction and this is where a crack has appeared along the centre metal support of the cast. There is also a horizontal crack which is in-between the top and bottom registers of the glyphs, essentially breaking the object into four pieces.
Conservation student Sayuri Morio tightening ratchet straps. The British Museum's Conservation Department regularly hosts students on placement. Sayuri Morio is an undergraduate from City and Guilds London Art School. Working on the Maudslay casts has given Sayuri the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on conservation skills.
All images © Trustees of the British Museum
Text and image selection: Amy Drago
Special acknowledgment to Sayuri Morio for her work and photos
Thanks to: Claudia Zehrt, Kate Jarvis, Jonathan Mortemore, Christos Gerontinis, and other BM Google Maya Project collaborators