The project documents the wooden artefacts from the Oseberg find and investigates possible conservation strategies to re-treat and preserve this iconic heritage for the future.
Conservator Paul Johannessen during alum-treatment of the Oseberg find in the early 1900s. Today researchers are working towards understanding alum degradation of these objects. Photo: KHM, UiO.
About the project
The Oseberg find is one of the most important archaeological finds in Norway and represents the most comprehensive collection of Viking Age wooden objects in the world. Today the artefacts are in alarming conditions due to the conservation methods used a century ago; after excavation in 1904, the most deteriorated wooden objects were treated with alum salts.
The project has a three-year duration (2014–16) and it builds on findings made during the Museum of Cultural History’s Alum Research Project (ARP, 2007–13); the overall goal of ARP was to provide a scientific basis for the choice of future preservation strategies for the Oseberg find. Saving Oseberg evaluates appropriate options for re-treatment and stabilization of the objects from the collection, based on methods developed in the ARP project and other research groups. It is an interdisciplinary project that combines natural and cultural sciences to preserve archaeological wooden artefacts.
The aim of the Saving Oseberg project is to prevent and/or stop deterioration of the alum-treated wood objects from the Oseberg find. It is important to stabilize and strengthen the artefacts so that they can successfully be preserved for the future. The project centres on five main focuses:
Documentation: document the alum-treated objects for the future.
Analysis: analyse the degradation processes in alum-treated wood, including mechanical and chemical characterization.
Neutralization methods: evaluate and develop methods to neutralize wood and stop active deterioration, including removal or inactivation of metal ions.
Conservation methods: test existing polymers and develop new methods and protocols to conserve the Oseberg wood.
Preventive conservation: implement measures to improve long-term conditions of the finds exhibited at the Viking Ship Museum.
Although not all questions will be completely answered by the end of this period, further activities are planned. This will allow the Museum of Cultural History to achieve the final goal of preserving the alum-treated objects from the Oseberg find.
KI – Department of Chemistry, University of Oslo, Norway
NCMH – The National Centre for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
DCCI – Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry, University of Pisa, Italy
NIBIO – Wood Technology, Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, Ås, Norway
HZB – Methods for Material Development, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie, Germany
CSGI – Center for Colloid and Surface Science, Firenze, Italy
The project is funded by the Norwegian State and the University of Oslo.