Conservation Frequently Asked Questions
What do archaeological conservators do?
Conservators assist in the long-term preservation and study of archaeological material recovered by archaeologists. In the field, conservators work to protect fragile objects during excavation and transport to a lab or storage facility. In the lab, conservators document and analyze artifacts as well as stabilize these objects for study and interpretation.
Some artifacts have the ability to tell archaeologists details about a site or group of people. By treating these objects we are able to learn how the objects are made, how they were used, who used them, and what their significance is within the greater context of the site.
Conservation is an expensive process, largely because of the amount of labor hours spent by conservators working directly on the objects. Due to their fragile nature, few objects can be treated by automated or chemical processes, for fear of losing important archaeological information or causing irreversible damage.
Many archaeological projects use pre-planning methods to prepare for conservation costs. Some types of object treatment can be organized in bulk or batch treatment to reduce costs.
There are many factors that go into determining what conservation treatments are used:
The Conservation Department accepts 3-6 month internship placements, depending on the individual’s internship requirements. They can be full or part-time depending on circumstances. While it is useful to have a background in archaeology or conservation, it is not necessary. If you are interested in applying for an internship, please contact the Head Conservator.
The MAC Lab also takes on any willing and hard-working volunteers throughout the year. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit the volunteer pages of the website.
The MAC Lab can only provide services to museums, non-profit organizations, government agencies and Cultural Resource Management firms. We are not able to treat objects belonging to private individuals, but will provide information on how to contact a private conservator upon request.
If you have a project requiring conservation treatment, please review our Service Rates on the Conservation Home Page and contact the Head Conservator who will review the needs of your objects and provide a cost estimate and treatment proposal.
Check in the “What’s New” section of the website for the most recent projects and developments at the lab!
Jamestown Flood Recovery Project
Alexandria Archaeology Firewell Pump
Everglades National Park