Preservation, conservation, and the challenges of interpretation

Many seals have survived for hundreds of years in a good condition but others have deteriorated and we rely on archivists and conservators to preserve them. The most common types of damage to seals are chipping around the edge, flaking and cracks across the surface: while this is often minor, such damage, if not addressed, can eventually lead to the disintegration of the entire seal.

Most of the seals featured in this exhibition have images and words which are easy to see. However, a considerable number of medieval seal impressions have very worn surfaces which mean that the design and legend can be difficult to discern. Angled lighting and magnification assist the viewer with revealing motifs and text on worn seals. Experience – particularly knowing what might be expected in a particular context – is also valuable for identifying motifs.