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22 December 2004
Seahenge focal point of museum revamp

Norfolk's famous Bronze Age timber circle should finally go on public show in 2007. A display of part of Seahenge, which in 1999 was controversially dug up from the shoreline at Holme, near Hunstanton (England), will form the focal point of a major redevelopment of Lynn Museum at King's Lynn. The scheme, costing just over 1m, is due to start next summer, with the museum reopening in early 2006. But it is not expected that conservation of the 55 posts forming the 4000-year-old ring will be completed until mid-2006.
     Specialists at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth are carrying out the painstaking process of freeze-drying the wood after it has been impregnated with polyethylene glycol - nicknamed "peg". This will remove all the water vapour and preserve the sponge-like cell structure of the timbers, which would crumble to dust if left to dry out. The work is being paid for by English Heritage.
     "What we are looking to do is reopen the museum building, once the building works have been completed, with temporary displays and we will wait until we've got the Seahenge timbers ready before installing the permanent displays," explained area museums officer Robin Hanley. "The ring timbers will be coming out of conservation in the middle of 2006. We will look at mounting a display at the beginning of 2007 and then it will hopefully be finished by the summer of 2007. What we didn't want to do is keep the museum closed until the timbers are available," said Dr Hanley. "We do need a period of time, once the timbers have come out of conservation, to design a display around them. It will require custom-built fittings for all the timbers.
     Preserving the large upturned tree stump which was at the centre of the circle is expected to be a much longer undertaking. "It's such a massive piece of timber," said Dr Hanley. "It may take an additional couple of years before the central stump is ready. What we are expecting that we will need to do in the short-term is to have a replica of the stump alongside the original ring and replace that with the original one when it comes out of conservation."
     The museum closed at the end of September so preparations for the project, which has a 778,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to begin.

Source: EDP 24 (19 December 2004)

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