Ephrata Cloister 

State Museum of Pennsylvania

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

The Ephrata CloisterEphrata Cloister was founded in 1732 by a group of pietistic German settlers led by Conrad Beissel. The group divided itself into three orders consisting of celibate Brothers and Sisters and a married order of Householders (farmers and craftsmen) who supported the congregation. The Ephrata community consisted of approximately eight major buildings, dormitories and meeting houses, workshops, mills and several smaller support structures. The Cloister declined after Beissel's death in 1768 and the Celibate Orders nearly ceased by 1813 after the death of the last celibate member. The remaining Householders formed the German Seventh Day Baptist Church in 1814 and remained in the Cloister until 1934. In 1941, the property and the structures which remained were sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and opened to the public as a museum. The artifacts treated by B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. were excavated from an area on the site which Ephrata records and period accounts mention and depict in an 1815 survey “map”. The iron brazier, tankard, and shovel blade were found by Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission archaeologists during the 2002 and 2003 excavations and are thought to be products of the Revolutionary War encampment which occurred at the site.

 

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

Before Treatment: BrazierThe archaeological artifacts received into the studios of B.R. Howard & Associates included a brazier, a tankard-like can, and a shovel blade. They were in unstable condition having active iron corrosion and significant losses resulting from burial. The expanded corrosion products and organic and soil accretions continued to flake and crumble while in storage. It was noted by Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission archaeologist, Steve Warfel, that the brazier is a rare survival and the only one of its kind in a collection of nearly 2.5 million archaeological artifacts curated by the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

 

TREATMENT

During Treatment: Application of Japanese Tissue PaperUpon receipt of the artifacts, B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. documented each piece using high resolution digital imagery. The artifacts were examined and x-rayed to determine the degree of deterioration and extent of remaining iron before being immersed in deionized water. The water baths were tested periodically to determine chloride levels and the process repeated until chloride could not be detected. Soil accretions were carefully reduced using hardwood sticks and dental tools under magnifications. The corroded surfaces were then electrolytically reduced using a rheostatically controlled DC power source. The artifacts were then rinsed and solvent dried. The objects were then consolidated and their surfaces protected using a dilute reversible acrylic resin. Fractures and splits in the tankard and brazier were reinforced using small strips of Japanese tissue. The tissue repairs were toned to blend with adjacent surfaces. A mount was designed to support the brazier which was missing one of its three legs.

 


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