The Silver Swan

Day 1 - 1st September 
This is Day 1 of the public conservation of arguably the Museum’s most loved object, the 235 year old Silver Swan musical automaton.

Over the next 10 weeks specialists Matthew Read and Ken Robinson will be dismantling the Swan and recording every piece for future generations, as part of a much needed in depth overhaul.

Today Ray Mand, who has serviced the Swan for the past 28 years, will remove the head, neck rings and body.

Once this is completed, Ken Robinson will help remove the twisted glass rods which give the effect of water, assessing their condition and photographing them before taking them back to his workshop where they will be cleaned and stored until near the end of the project.

Day 2 - 2nd September 
Day 2 follows on from an extremely successful opening day. A lot has been learnt about the actual machine including the fact that most of the glass rods have been replaced over the years. Another discovery is that not only the initial 20% of the glass rods need cleaning, as first thought, but the whole lot. This will lead to a significant difference when the Swan is put back together as the glass will really sparkle.

Today, specialist Matthew Read will be cleaning the 19th century French silver leaves and storing them away before commencing work on the neck.

Day 3 - 3rd September 
Yesterday saw the removal and cataloguing of the 122 leaves surrounding the Swan. A fragment of one of the leaves will be sent to the Assay office where it will be tested to see what grade of silver it is and where they were made. The numerical markings on them suggest they are French.

Once the glass rods, which create the water effect, were removed it was seen that the reflective backing plates were in poor condition. This is to be addressed by the possible addition of silver leaf which can be removed in the future without damaging the Swan.

Today Matthew and Emma are going to study the head and how it is made, before starting on the neck rings to see which of the 113 are damaged and to learn which have previously been replaced.

Day 4 - 4th September
Yesterday saw the completion of detailed recording of 86 of the 113 next rings. It was found that during previous work on the Swan the numerical markings show that the neck rings were not replaced in the correct order.

Also markings found suggest that in the past there may have been more fish, ornaments or flowers placed between the glass rods.

Another busy day sees:

the continuation of work on the remaining neck rings
the bath tub that the Swan used to sit in being measured and photographed
the fish examined to see if there are any hallmarks
creating templates so that the new backing plates can be created 

Day 5 - 5th September 
Yesterday an exciting discovery of stamped punch marks was discovered at the base of the Swan’s neck, which correspond with those on the tails of the fish. These will now need detailed investigation. This has caused some debate as all the fish have the same mark when in actual fact it is thought that 3 of the fish are 18 century and 4 of them 19 century.

Numerical numbers have also been found on the wooden rim of the ‘bathtub’ which possibly correlate to numbers on the Swan. All the neck rings are recorded and prepared for cleaning by specialist Karen Barker.

Today the templates for the backing plates, begun yesterday, will be finished. The plates are now completely off, giving an open view of the mechanism. 

Another important job that is going to be looked at today is the workings of the tracking that the fish are attached to, before work progresses on the music box.