Winner: 2020 Ronald Belcher Award
University College London
For outstanding and innovative research on the conservation of Mary Rose iron cannonballs, which has produced unique insights to the field of conservation.
Celebrate Hayley Simon
Hayley Simon’s research project examines the impact of preservation treatments on archaeological iron corrosion. This has been achieved through analysis of a set of over 1,200 cast iron cannonballs from the shipwreck of King Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose, which sunk off the coast of Portsmouth on 19th July 1545. Having been produced in bulk, the collection was buried together for over 400 years and their relative uniformity was maintained until excavation between 1979 and 1983. Since excavation, the cannonballs have been treated by a range of conservation methods, primarily aimed at removing chlorine, which can accelerate corrosion. Due to their unique archaeological and conservation history, the collection provides an extraordinary opportunity to investigate the efficacy of different treatment approaches, in a real-world situation that accounts for the complexity of archaeological material. By analysing the collection, we can develop more effective conservation treatments, addressing the long-standing issue of iron corrosion in museums and ensuring that precious artefacts are preserved for the future.Read full biography
Hayley is a final year PhD student at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, working on a collaborative project with Diamond Light Source and the Mary Rose Trust. She graduated with an MChem in Chemistry from the University of Warwick in 2015. Her PhD project looks at the corrosion and conservation of the Mary Rose cast iron cannonballs and the application of synchrotron techniques to archaeological material.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Working out how to cut up a 450 year-old cannonball without contamination, loss of corrosion products or causing more corrosion.
Why do you think interdisciplinary research and collaboration is important in science?
Though it can sometimes feel like you are speaking a different language (e.g: the word synthesis means something very different to a chemist and an archaeologist), I have found interdisciplinary work to be highly rewarding. Every field has a slightly different perspective and approach, but by working together you can overcome problems you never knew you had and answer broader research questions.