Project Search at Dumfries Museum

In this week’s blog, Ross Thorburn describes his work treating the ‘Maxwelltown and District Cycling Club Challenge Cup’ trophy from 1893.


My name is Ross and I am an intern for a course called Project Search, which is run by Dumfries and Galloway College and Dumfries and Galloway Council. The course gives people who have learning difficulties like me an opportunity for work experience in a bid to develop skills to get a job in the future. On the course we are given three work placements, each lasting for 12 weeks. I worked at Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura for my second work placement through Project Search.

My work experience at Dumfries Museum was as a Museum Assistant. Some of the jobs I did included sorting out data, writing up records, examining artefacts and researching information about certain things. A special project that I’m about to tell you about was treating a trophy cup. It was a Challenge Cup for Maxwelltown and District Cycling Club, dated 1893. I was originally given this task on Tuesday 20thof February by one of my supervisors, Lydia, who told me that I was to clean and protect the cup, once she had gone over the techniques with me.



The sides of the cup are decorated with engravings of 2 people riding bicycles, as well as a motif of flowers. On the front, there is writing detailing what the cup was for and the names of the men who won it.


Close up of the cyclists

When I was first given the cup, its surface was dark and dull. This was due to the layer of tarnish that had built up over the past few years. Lydia showed me how to use Goddard’s Long term Silver Polish, making a swab to apply the polish by twisting a little bit of cotton wool onto a wooden stick. The polish was poured onto a watch glass, the swab was dipped into it and then rubbed onto the surface of the metal, before being polished off with a soft cloth. I used Goddard’s because it’s effective at removing tarnish in a controlled way. I thought the job was interesting at first and then I started to enjoy it when I got into the swing of things. I started polishing at the bottom and worked away at the engraved patterns that showed a trace of tarnish in them. Throughout the weeks of doing this task I steadily built my way from the bottom to the top and as I polished, I noticed that the cup was looking quite a lot more silver and shiny than it did before. As I got to the top of the trophy, I started rubbing the engraved letters and images on the surface of the cup. I then gave the cup a final polish so that there was no tarnish left in the engravings. I learned how to polish things very delicately and found a good balance so that I applied enough pressure to remove the tarnish but didn’t brush hard enough to damage the trophy.


Close up of the flower motif

Some small dried bits of polish remained in some of the detailed areas and it was difficult to clear this away with the cloth so I wet a brush with distilled water and brushed the detail, which managed to clear away any remaining polish.

I was then given some Renaissance Micro-Crystalline wax to slow down any future tarnishing. I used this wax with a soft cloth and buffed the entire surface of the cup to make sure that it was fully protected.

I think I have worked well on this Challenge Cup and I’m amazed at how different it looks after I polished it. I have had a great experience treating the cup and I am happy that I managed to complete the task before I finished my second rotation.


Ross on the completion of the treatment of the Challenge Cup

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