I have just started getting this intriguing object ready to go out on loan. This shrine is from Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, and is of a type typically used on junks by Chinese seafarers in the 18th century.
It was associated with a divinity thought to offer protection from the perils of the sea. It was found floating in the river near Canton after a stormy night and was presumed to have drifted from one of the Chinese vessels which had foundered during the gale. It was gifted to our collections by George Rathbone of the Royal Liverpool Institute in 1818.
A little stand with holes cut in the top would have contained gilt cups to hold offerings, but sadly none of these survived the storm intact.
The soaking in the river is part of its history and so we will not restore it to ‘as new’ condition. But it will have years of museum dust removed and detached parts secured in place.
The cleaning method I’m using is very gentle. It involves just a dry sponge of a type which does not cause any abrasion and which does not redeposit the dirt as cleaning progresses. The repairs will be carried out using a reversible adhesive so as not to compromise any work in the future.