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Conservation of Wooden Objects

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Conservation of Wooden Objects

Conservation of Wooden Objects

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Item Code: IDL148
Author: A.S. Bisht
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 8124604487
Pages: 140 (Illustrated Throughout In Color and B/W)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.5"
weight of the book: 325 gms
Back of the Book

The book deals exhaustively with conservation of our ancient heritage existent in the form of wooden artifacts. This volume contains four chapters. The first chapter deals with the history of use of wood, location of wooden artifacts and the need to review our policy of acquisition of artifacts. The second highlights the information on the source of wood. Identification properties of wood, and techniques of making wooden objects. The third one explains the deterioration mechanism of wood substance and other constituents by various agencies of degradation inherent structural defects and need for proper examination and documentation to decide on the treatment required. The final chapter details the conservation technology for wooden objects explaining the steps in eradication of biodeterioration, cleaning physical repairs, restoration/ retouching and preventive measures. No doubt this book should serve as a valuable guide to archaelogists, conservators and student of museology.


About the Author

A.S. Bisht did his postgraduate studies in Art conservation in Sydney under an Australian Government senior fellowship. After serving the Archaeological survey of India for four years he joined the National Museum, New Delhi in 1958 and was the head of its conservation Department from 1978 till his retirement in 1991 as the chief restorer. Mr. Bisht is an authority on conservation and is well known in India and abroad. He has authored three books conservation science scientific Aspects of heritage study and conservation of Indian Miniatures and illustrated manuscripts.



The national Museum institute (a deemed to be university) has been conducting its various course in the three faculties including the faculty of Art Conservation or the award of MA degree since 1989. I am grateful to the authorities of the NMI, as it more popularly known, for having associated me as a Visiting Faculty member to teach one or two course very semest5er all these years while in service, and also after my retirement from the post of Chief Restorer and head of Conservation at the National Museum, new Delhi. All these years I Have contributed my bit in this endeavour so as to fulfil this commitment with the result, our students are now successfully helping in the tasks in which they are involved including the ultimate task of conservation of cultural property, as infrastructure facilities could be created to make available the personnel for various works in the various departments, governmental private or otherwise.

As I look back at all the years from 1958 onwards and as I grew older and older it has been my heartfelt desire to make available some textbook for the future students of the NMI when some of us would not be able to continue to teach here for health reasons or otherwise. I have been an eyewitness to the upsurge in the care and conservation of cultural property on India and the growing needs for the same. There has been a general consciousness for the collective care and conservation by the various disciplines connected with the management of cultural property especially after the creation of the NMI. The students who pass out of this Institute have a better understanding of the various aspects of conservation management and its importance for the total safety of the collections while conducting the various activities in a museum staring from acquisition, transportation and handing of the artifacts. NMI therefore has grown into a grand banyan tree under which many students take shelter. Needless to say, older people are gradually being suitably replaced after their retirement by our students and they are doing very well. Truly gurus (teachers) might remain as gur (lump of molasses)but the celas (students) may become sakkara (sugar). I think it is a matter of great satisfaction for the teachers for all times to come.

Initially, I was allotted course to teach aspects of conservation for all faculties- technical study and Documentation, deterioration Organic and inorganic objects and also conservation of organic objects made of wood textiles, bone ivory leather and ethnographic artifacts. During these years I have already published two books, through a private publisher conservation science and Scientific aspects of heritage study which covered the topics I have been teaching. Now I am very happy to say that specifically on various topics as stated above and the NMI has agreed to help. Thanks to the NMI to have agreed to see my dream come true. Fortunately all the VCS of the NMO have been very kind to me since I was associated with them in one way or the way or the other from the very beginning while serving the National Museum and wherever they were earlier. I would fail in my duty if the names of these VVs are not mentioned. They are the late Dr. L.P. Sihare the late Dr. R.C. Biswas, Dr. R.D. Choudhury, and Dr. A.K.V.S. Reddy.

I have the slides and photographs of the artifacts as photo credits belong to the national Museum many of which I had taken myself while I was Head of the Laboratory and are being used now. I duly acknowledge this act. I think the then Head of the wood Anatomy Branch, forest Research Institute, dehra Dun Dr. S.K. Purkayasth and other offices including my brother-in-Law, Shri B.S. Negi, one of the Sr. research officers of that branch who helped me helped me while I was attending their three month’s training course on wood anatomy in the mid-1960s. it was a great help in initiating the work of identification of woods used in making statues and other architectural structures in the past. I also take this opportunity to thank the present VC. Of the NMI for has continued support and confidence and for keeping me active in the profession even at this age. I would also like to thank all other support. I am also very thankful to my family members for their continued support even though I might have ignored their personal expectations from me all these years. God bless them all. I am also grateful to the publishers for their help.


WOODEN Art objects, conservation techniques of which are going to be dealt with in this book are composed of organic materials. These have their origin from mother nature in the form of plants and have been made suitable for our daily use or artistic creativity. We must, therefore, have an appropriate understanding of their origin and the relation to the various sets of organisms such as animals, plants, trees and humans which were all having life at one time and have passed from the juvenile to adult stages and finally to death since death (felling down of trees) is the end. It has, therefore, played an important role in the development of what we see around us today as part of the ecology (PIs. 1 & 2).

On earth, nothing can live entirely on its own. Of all living beings plants in nature are the only ones to make their own food by a process called photosynthesis in the presence of sunlight and conduct sap from the soil made by the micro-organisms like fungi and bacteria which break down the dead plants and animals into minerals which get absorbed by the soil and help in the growth of the plants in the form of sap as food besides absorbing the carbon dioxide released by us humans and also animals. All of these natural living things, therefore, are connected to each other in an invisible and complicated way. Plants collect energy from the Sun, and animals' feed on plants. When plants and animals die, their remains do nut pile up, instead, fungi and bacteria break them down, so that they can be recycled and re-used. In nature, living things always look after themselves. Flowering plants provide insects with sugary nectar and in return, insects help plants by spreading pollen from flower to flower, in a partnership called symbiosis.

Forests are the home to many different animals, but they are also valuable in other ways. The roots of trees help to bind the soil together and stop it being washed away when it rains heavily and starts to flood (PIs. 3 & 4) as seen in the photos. Their leaves take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, keeping the atmosphere' fit to breathe by living beings. The chlorophyll in their leaves withdraws carbon dioxide from the air, converts it into sugar and starches, and give off free oxygen as a byproduct. In the growth process of the tree these simple carbohydrates are then converted into cellulose, hemi cellulose and lignin. In mountains, forests also act as living crash barriers against avalanches. This co-operative attitude in between them, has a very subtle relationship with nature to keep the ecological balance.

History of Use of Wood

Most of the remains of wood indicate to us the history of the past, the way of life of our ancestors, their creations and the message of the civilization of each period. For their personal and household use they met all their requirements of items which were easily available not very far from their habitat. Plant materials, therefore, were most suited because of their easy availability, ease in handling and their resilience. So, man, in earlier times, used wood to build shelters to reside in and also protect them from the extremities of the climate, to make household implements for help in their day-to-day work, to make statues for artistic and religious needs, to meet their daily needs of fuel to keep them warm, to make artefacts, ritual objects, for architectural purposes and to cook food. Wood was then available in abundance in nature. However, we also find many examples of painted wood carvings, wood panels and statues after the seventeenth century CE (PIs. 5 & 6).

Examples of different woods having been used for different purposes, other than paintings, during the Indus Valley Civilization are reported from the excavation accounts of sites at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the Indian subcontinent and for making large buildings and structures. The earliest example of wood as an archaeological evidence comes from a coffin made of wood datable to 2000 BCE. The top plank of this coffin was reportedly made of deoadara (Cedrus deodara) and rose wood (Daibergia IatifoIia) was reportedly used to make the side planks. Both of these two woods have an aroma which keeps the insects away and it seems that our ancestors had the knowledge of their properties. The wood used for making a mortar for pounding grains was Zizyphus spp. This reveals that the Harappans were not only aware of the shock absorbing quality of this timber but also of the fact that this is one of the few woods that seasons well in the form of logs and was therefore suitable for the purpose.



  Preface viii
  List of Illustrations xiii
1 Introduction 1
  1.1 History of use of wood 2
  1.2 Literary Evidences 9
  1.3 Location of wooden Artefacts 13
  1.4 Need to review our Policy of Acquisition of Artefacts 17
2 Wood as material for Art Objects 19
  2.1Source of Wood 19
  2.2 Field Identification of wood 21
  2.3 Material of wood 26
  2.4 Properties of wood 27
  2.5 Water in wood 28
  2.6 (i) Physical structure 29
  (ii) chemical structure 31
  2.7 Technique of making wooden objects 32
3 Deterioration of wood 37
  3.1 Environmental Degradation 38
  3.2 Mechanical Degradation 41
  3.3 Biological Degradation 42
  3.4 Chemical Degradation 44
  3.5 Inherent Structural Defects in wood 46
  3.6 examination and Documentation 47
  3.7 Treatments record of wooden objects 49
4 Conservation of wood 51
  4.1 steps in conservation 52
  4.1 (A) Eradication of Biodeterioration 52
  (B) Cleaning 5
  ( C) Conservation 57
  (D) Waterlogged Wood 60
  (E) Physical Repairs 65
  (F) Restoration/ Retouching 67
  (G) Preventive measures 68
  Bibliography 69
  Plates and Figures 81
  Index 113

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