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Environmental monitoring, Fishbourne Roman Palace

Museum Name

Image credit: Emily Nisbet-Hawkins

Fishbourne Roman Palace

Museum Contact

Rob Symmons

Equipment / materials used or borrowed

Novasina MS1 Hygro monitoring system.

Elsec 7640 light and UV monitor

Dates of work / project carried out using the equipment / materials

Oct 2013 to present, readings taken on a weekly basis (intended to continue until 1 year of data has been collected.


How did you use the equipment / material to improve your collections care?

Algae growth on the mosaics

Image credit: Emily Nisbet-Hawkins

The monitoring is ongoing but once completed it is hoped that the environmental readings can be correlated against the distribution of moss and algae growth on the in situ archaeology in order to provide an indication of the environment that these organisms require to grow. This will help us understand what environmental control is needed to reduce moss and algae growth. 

What was the impact of having this equipment / material available to you?

What new skills and confidence your staff and volunteers gain?

The work has proved to be an excellent volunteer project. Volunteers really enjoy the privilege of accessing the archaeological levels usually out of bounds to visitors. Two volunteers have worked on the project at various stages, and it has formed an impressive addition to the CVs of both.

How has the collection been improve by this work?

Once completed, it is hoped that this will contribute to our ability to reduce damaging and unsightly moss and algae growth on our world famous and invaluable Roman mosaics and other remains of the Palace.

Has this lead to any other projects or funding?

The data will be sent to Newcastle University for analysis and may leade to a review of the local environmental controls in the area. Discussions are also under way to incorporate the data produced into a GIS that will manage the conservation data for the site.

Increasingly, permissions to carry out any invasive conservation procedures and any associated funding is reliant on a clear understanding of the environmental conditions and history of the site. The data produced by this project will be a valuable resource in this respect.

What went well and what didn't go well?

Tell us about any difficulties you encounter within your museum?

The project relied on having a volunteer available to take recording at regular intervals (on the same day every week, at midday) for a full year. The original volunteer left the team and had to be replaced. This led to some problems with succession (these were overcome without adverse impact). The new team member has limited availability and so readings are now taken on different days throughout the week, (but still once per week and at midday).

Did you have any additional training – was this useful?

No additional external training was required.

How did you encourage everyone in your organisation to engage with the work?

The problem with moss and algae is very clearly visible and one that all staff are acutely aware and concerned about. They were only too happy to see that the issue is being addressed and to do whatever is possible to ensure the project is a success.

Did this have an impact on the visitors? Did you work in front of the public?

The visitors will benefit from being able to view the site without it being obscured by moss and algae. They also enjoyed seeing conservation work taking place on the site and talking to the volunteer about what they are doing and why.

Top Tips

Be lucky by recruiting an excellent volunteer team. Be flexible when possible but don’t forget that the data collected needs to be fit for purpose.

What are your plans for the future?

How will the learning and progress so far affect future collections care?

See above – we hope that the project will feed into improved and appropriate environmental control designed to reduce the growth of moss and algae, which can be unsightly and eventually damaging. It is hoped that the lessons learned can be shared with other museums with algae problems and feed into a wider understanding of how this can be approached.

What further work or support would you like and how do you plan to address this?

Following the data gathering phase, analysis by Newcastle University will produce recommendations. Further advice and assistance may be needed on how best to implement these recommendations.