Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Field Conservation at Kaman

The conservators at the JIAA play many roles, performing in-lab treatments on metal objects, monitoring the environment of artifact storage units, and carrying out technical research relating to excavations and finds at Kaman-Kalehöyük. Conservators are also called out to the field to assist archaeologists with the excavation, stabilization and lifting of fragile artifacts and materials. Last week Lucy Skinner, Melissa Mariano, Elçin Bas, Corinna Koch Dandolo and Carrie Roberts took part in a day of field conservation, during which we lifted a large ceramic vessel and fragile charred wood, among other materials.

The artifacts took up most of the floor space inside of a narrow pit, so we took time to consider in what order the items should be lifted. Lucy started by placing aluminum foil over a piece of charred branch, followed by strips of plaster bandages. While this dried Melissa, Corinna and Carrie excavated around the large ceramic vessel so that medical bandages could be wrapped around it. The bandages provided extra support to the object as it was lifted, as did the compacted soil that was left inside the vessel. The ceramic was placed in a padded tray and tied down so it could be transported to the lab. Inside we found pottery sherds, animal bones, and charred plant material, along with the soil.

Corinna and I were given the task of lifting the charred wood branch. This proved difficult since there was so little space around the object to insert a rigid support underneath it. We figured out that cutting the rims off polyethylene box lids could create supports with just the right amount of flexibility to work the material under the artifact. Once this was done we slowly turned the artifact over onto its back, and lifted it into a waiting box. It was a successful day in the field and a great learning experience for the conservation interns.

Friday, July 8, 2011

JIAA Museology Seminar

The Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology is providing an innovative workshop for local museum curators in different aspects of museum administration. The workshop included seminars on exhibit design, photography, and more, and included a two-day course designed to introduce the students to basic concepts and practices of museum and field conservation. Alice, Lucy, and Melissa developed a series of lectures that opened up discussions on what conservation is, what conservators do, and the methodologies that drive conservation practice. The goal was to offer an introduction to the field, suggestions on what museum curators can safely do to protect their collections, and to stress the importance of consulting with conservators in certain situations.

Alice began day one with a presentation on conservation principles, outlining the ethical guidelines that conservators (and archaeological conservators) work by, and offering a series of conservation treatment case studies. Next, Lucy gave a presentation on field conservation, defining the role of the archaeological conservator in the field and explaining how fragile artifacts can be stabilized and lifted. Melissa gave a presentation on preventive conservation, stressing the importance of environmental control, pest management, and safe housing in the protection of museum collections. The conservators ended the day with a hands-on session on safe handling, and showed the curators how to make storage mounts / packaging for their objects.

Lucy started off day two with a detailed account of art and artifact materials, modes of deterioration, and approaches to conservation in response to deterioration. She discussed organic and inorganic materials, offered examples of treatments, and then opened the floor to Corinna and Carrie to share their own conservation treatment case study. Next, the curators were brought to the conservation laboratory, where they were invited to examine objects through the microscope and carry out simple mechanical of practice metal artifacts. The students - some of whom hadn't used a microscope before - particularly enjoyed this segment of the course. Finally, ceramics restorer Elçin Bas showed the students how plaster fills are done on ceramics.

JIAA Director Dr. Sachihiro Omura hopes to continue this workshop next summer, and based on the success of this week we imagine this might become an annual event at the Museum of Archaeology, Kaman-Kalehöyük