Armed with a thorn, a wealth of knowledge and plenty of patience, conservation officer Pieta Greaves is part of the team piecing together Britain’s largest treasure case
The celebrated Staffordshire Hoard is set to shine at BMAG later this month, but as you view it spare a thought for the people beavering away behind the scenes. Transforming the unearthed finds from muddy lumps to museum-ready treasures is a painstaking process. You need someone with bucketfuls of patience – someone like Pieta Greaves. Pieta is BMAG’s conservation officer and she is thrilled to be involved in the project which is one of the highlights of her career. “It’s such an honour,” she explained. “The Hoard is one of the most important Anglo-Saxon finds ever made – and yes it’s a slow process, but it’s also incredibly exciting.” Currently Pieta is busy cleaning up the delicate pieces ready to be catalogued by researchers. “There were 1,700 pieces taken from the ground, but during the cleaning process we’ve discovered tiny fragments which are also significant, so now there are 4,000 pieces and counting. Piecing them back together is fascinating and we’re increasing our understanding all the time.”
Britain’s largest treasure case clearly needs handling with care. When the team found that standard metal conservation tools were too harsh for the Hoard, one of Pieta’s colleagues recalled that gramophones were played with needle-thorns from the garden because they didn’t scratch the records. It was a eureka moment and now Pieta and the team are armed with needles which gives you an idea of the precision and patience required. As a career in conservation goes, this is a dream gig so Pieta is a bit embarrassed about being referred to as an unsung hero. From her point of view she’s just doing the job she’s trained for years to do and one that she loves, but enjoying the job doesn’t make it any less valid. Pieta and her colleagues work enriches all of our lives to some degree. Pay a visit to the Hoard yourself and you’ll soon see what we mean.