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Saving heritage ironwork from the ravages of rust

Experimental study determines corrosion rate of iron 

Most museums in Britain house chloride infested archaeological and heritage iron objects, which corrode due to an absence of evidence-based conservation strategies. Brunel’s iron ship and iconic tourist attraction ss Great Britain was estimated to have a lifespan of two decades before rust made it physically unviable.

This situation changed due to research at Cardiff University, led by Professor David Watkinson, delivering the evidence required to successfully adopt desiccated storage for controlling the corrosion of chloride containing iron. Experimental study was used to determine the corrosion rate of this iron at low humidity. Results were used to identify how dry the atmosphere around the ss Great Britain’s hull should be in order to prevent its corrosion and how fast corrosion would proceed if the surrounding air became damper. This ensures that managing the desiccated preservation of the city of Bristol’s number one visitor attraction is an informed process.

The data also produced storage guidelines for archaeological and heritage iron. These have been adopted by English Heritage the British Museum and the Museum of London.

“…a truly ground breaking piece of conservation…making the ship…accessible and highly engaging for people of all ages.” Professor Lord Robert Winston

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