A Fragile Heritage
Aspects of Historic Glass
Cambridge - Wednesday 6th September 2017

Jana Hilderbrandt
<[email protected]>

article posted 07 August 2017

Jana Hildebrandt, born 1988, studied conservation and restoration of stained glass and glass objects in Erfurt at the University of Applied Sciences. In 2015 she graduated with her master thesis about the conservation of the Halberstädter Humpen. Until 2017 she worked at the cathedral of Uppsala to help conserving Sweden's biggest figurative stained glass window.

The mining Humpen of Halberstadt from 1579
Jana Hildebrandt
Altonaer Straße 19, 99085 Erfurt, Germany

In 1994 enamelled glass fragments of a broad cylindrical beaker were found during an excavation in the historic town centre of Halberstadt. The beaker, in German „Humpen“, is decorated with miners performing their typical work. Near the rim an inscription is found beneath an ornamentation of gold and beaded enamel dots. The Humpen dates from 1579. Straight after the excavation a restoration of the heavily corroded fragments was carried out under difficult conditions. All fragments were consolidated with a Poly(n-butylmethacrylate) coating and repaired with an UV-adhesive. Caused by displaced joints and messily used restoration materials, the object‘s sight is not quite pleasing. The visual examination of the beaker was only arranged in 2013 when concerns occurred that the enamel decoration was in danger to detach. Additionally it was feared that the stability of the glass was affected through large missing areas in the vessel‘s wall.

As part of a master thesis the examination of the beaker‘s materials and techniques was carried out for the first time. In preparation for the planning of conservation and restoration treatments, the object assessment as well as the observation concerning the composition and properties of the restoration materials was carried out. As it proved not possible to remove these materials without causing damage to the glass and decoration, no aesthetically motivated treatment could be executed at the Humpen. Creating a safe and fit for exhibition state was the main goal in the conservation of the object.

As the conservation proofed to be a dead end, first research of the possible historical and cultural background showed that here is a hidden treasure that needs to be brought to light. The object is not known to a broader public of glass historians. Its importance as one of the first surviving vessel glasses of its type is yet to be affirmed. Is the true origin of the vessel the Erzgebirge? The history of glassmaking and mining is closely interrelated and thus this object has an exciting story to tell.