While it’s not practical to mend every single possible vessel, there’s certainly a lot of good reasons to selectively reconstruct particular artifacts.
Identification, cataloging, and storage are all considerations from that first “A-ha!
For this platter in particular, you can tell that it first broke in half, and then each half broke in half, and each quarter broke down further, and so on.
To reconstruct it, all those smaller pieces had to be put back into quarter sections, and then the quarters merged to halves, and then the two halves fused back into a mostly complete vessel.
” moment when two otherwise dissimilar sherds magically fit together.
When we do choose to reconstruct, we further our understanding of a collection, as well as provide the amazing satisfaction of helping something broken for hundreds of years come together again.
A reconstructed vessel needs to be handled a lot more delicately than a whole vessel or sherds, and how it will be stored is very important.
Mending was easy, since the intact partial reconstruction did not obstruct any of the rediscovered sherds.
This Canton platter was less complete, but we were able to find some of its other pieces amongst a sea of blue and white Canton porcelain sherds.
In cases like this, it’s better to photograph the temporarily reconstructed vessel as we’ve done above.
We then store the sherds as we would any others, after removing all the blue tape and any trace of adhesive, and then making notes in the catalog records so that future researchers will know that the pieces are associated.
But once everything came together it was clear we were looking at something pretty unusual.