Repair, Reuse, Recycle

It’s not a new idea! People have been been reusing and recycling throughout history.

A stone mould with representations of crucifixes.

A stone mould, HCA 693

We are all familiar with the idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle” as one way we can be more environmentally conscious. However, the idea is not a new one, people have been doing it all though history. 

Here we will explore objects from the Hunt collection that have been repaired or used for a new purpose to continue their useful life. These objects have been divided into three groups based on how they have been treated

Repaired – these items have been repaired so that their useful life can be extended. The object, or what it was made of, must have been considered valuable or not easily replaced and, therefore, worth repairing.

Reuse – these are items that have been used more than once. Rather than be discarded or replaced the item has been used again.

Recycled – these items have been put to a new use, often something totally different from their original purpose.




This Bronze Age bucket was found, preserved in Capecastle Bog, near Armoy in Co Antrim. We can assume that this bucket was of value because it was repaired several times allowing it to continue to be used. Its value is also clear because it was subsequently deposited in a bog probably as part of a ritual or ceremony.

Similar examples have been found in Co Offaly as part of the hoard found in Dowris (now in the British Museum) and in Merionethshire in Wales (in the collection of the Museum of Wales)

Tall bronze bucket with rounded shoulders and two round handles

Cape Castle Bucket, HCA 460

This wooden figurine is thought to be Egyptian and date to the 1st Century BC. She may have been a figure from a wooden boat, of the type that were included as grave goods that were buried with the Pharaohs. These goods and items were to accompany them into the afterlife. 

Clearly seen on the chest of the figure is a small circle that appears to be a hole that has been plugged. It goes right through the object. As this is not a usual feature for these figures it seems likely that it is really a small repair, perhaps to replace a knot or a hole in the wood.  

The repair to whatever damage or imperfection existed allowed the object to be included rather than discarded.

Blue and white delft was the attempt by European ceramic manufacturers to imitate the fine porcelain that was being imported from China. European and Irish produced delft was considered a luxury item even though it was cheaper to produce than the Chinese porcelain it was trying to mimic, and so it was worthwhile for it to be repaired in order to continue to be used.  

This serving dish was made in Dublin and dates to the 18th century. It has been repaired using wire stitches or rivets. Holes were drilled part of the way through the object and metal u-shaped brackets were inserted to hold the broken fragments tightly together. Sometimes the rivets were recessed down into the ceramic, and were covered over and hidden. However, like on this example, the rivets were often left visible


This kind of repair was developed from a traditional chinese repair technique and was used in Europe up until early 20th century when glues and adhesives were developed that could provide a strong and reliable repair. Mechanical repair, using these wire rivets, provided the best option to make the ceramic strong and watertight, and so suitable for continued use.

This ceramic bowl is Chinese and dates to the Ming dynasty (16th or 17th Century). The silver mount that surrounds it dates to the same time but is European. When the bowl was imported to Europe it would have been a very valuable, a rare and exotic object. The silver mount was probably added to repair damage to the ceramic. This was a common type of repair in the absence of suitable glues or adhesive this was a common type of repair. Metal rims or mounts such as this were often added to ceramic objects to hide chipped edges, or to support breaks. 


There are several examples in the Hunt collection of metal rims or features added to ceramic bowls.



Reusing a piece of paper, especially for simple notes and thoughts, is very commonplace. This piece of paper has been reused by the artist Pablo Picasso to sketch two different drawings. On one side there is a pencil sketch of a female bust in profile, on the other is a horse drawn in crayon and pencil. 

The drawings are thought to date to 1905, and the sketch of the horse is thought to be a study for “Jeune Homme et Cheval”, a work now in the collection of the Tate Modern.

Like many artists Picasso regularly reused paper and canvases when producing his artworks.

Dating to the Neolithic (5th to 3rd millennium BC) this stone axe is made of green tuff, a soft stone that is formed out of volcanic ash. It has been badly broken with the blade and the butt both very damaged. Of the portion that is left the smooth worked surface can still be seen on the main body. On one side circular motifs have been carved into the surface, one of them encloses a cross. It is clear from the motif that the carving is Christian, and so has been done thousands of years after the axehead was originally made and used. The reuse of this piece could have been to repurpose the axehead as a christian object, or, more likely, it was used as a practice surface before carving on another object or item.

This small ivory casket dates to the 13th century, however the lock on the front is a later addition, possibly dating to the 14th century.

The later addition of an iron lock has been done by reshaping and reconfiguring some of the elements of the body, removing one of the straps and reshaping another to create a “pin” for the locking mechanism.

The box itself is ivory, with gilded rope straps around the body and set with semi precious stones. It is a beautiful piece that would have had high value as it has many precious materials used in its manufacture.

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