We have worked on a wide variety of mediums, but crustacean shell was certainly a new one for us! This small sculpture was made in the late 19th century and had survived remarkably well considering its fragile medium and age. Apparently making sculptures from shells and other sea life was a common pastime for Victorians visiting the coast.

The sculpture, belonging to the British Dental Association, of a dentist violently extracting a patient’s tooth, had suffered impact damage. One of the figures arrived in pieces, and several claws were found loose in the bell jar mount. The old dentist’s grey hair was falling out and the patient’s chair was collapsing.

Most of the sculpture was taken apart and reconstructed using a reversible but strong adhesive. The dentist had a hair transplant, and all other fragile areas were consolidated. To replace any missing limbs, many trips to the various fishmongers of South East London were ensued, and finally the perfect langoustine claws were sourced, cleaned, and adhered in place.

The object is now back where it certainly belongs, in the British Dental Association Museum.

Orbis Conservation