Life comes full circle

This artefact was a wooden box containing seven pristine tins of Fry’s Pure Cocoa. According to one account of the history of the tins they were part of the provisions for one of Scott’s expeditions.

Credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust

Conservator Ciarán shares his story about coming full circle on his conservation journey with tins of Fry's Pure Cocoa.

It was during my conservation training at Cardiff University in 2008-9 that I first heard about Antarctic Heritage Trust and the conservation work they were doing on the historic huts of Scott and Shackleton.

However, it was not until the winter of 2010 that I got my hands on an artefact – an artefact that may have been part of that epic journey south undertaken by Scott and his teams. This artefact was a wooden box containing seven pristine tins of Fry’s Pure Cocoa. According to one account of the history of the tins they were part of the provisions for one of Scott’s expeditions, but this could not be verified. Nevertheless it was a breath of possibility that hung around the artefact.

At the time I was a free-lance conservator working to prepare a wide variety of objects for display at the soon-to-be-opened Museum of Bristol. Despite the hundreds of artefacts that passed my hands at that time they stuck in my mind due to the journey they represented. One was also opened so I do have memories of sneaking sniffs of the sweet smell of 100-year-old cocoa (even though I’m not a hot chocolate fan).

Fry's cocoa tins on display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Now, almost six years later, I find myself living in Christchurch, New Zealand, working for Antarctic Heritage Trust on the artefacts from the lesser known but vitally important historic hut at Cape Adare.

I have conserved many artefacts (around 650!) during my time here so far but it wasn’t until March that I started conserving seven tins of Fry’s Pure Cocoa, reminding me of my experience at Bristol and creating a sense of things coming full circle.

Now these seven tins of Fry’s Cocoa are conserved and are ready to return to their century-old home in Cape Adare where they will hopefully continue to inspire the imagination of history lovers in the years to come, like they have for me.

Fry's cocoa tins from Cape Adare hut after conservation.

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