JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 3, Article 4 (pp. 249 to 269)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 3, Article 4 (pp. 249 to 269)

CONSERVATION AND ARCHAEOLOGY IN GREAT BRITAIN AND THE UNITED STATES: A COMPARISON

JESSICA S. JOHNSON



8 THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONSERVATION IN THE UNITED STATES

Some conservators in the United States have been involved in conservation of archaeological objects or at least materials that were once buried for some time. Important art collections like the Chinese bronzes of the Freer Gallery of Art (Gettens 1969; Pope et al. 1967) and important classical sites such as Sardis in Turkey (Majewski 1973) included conservation as part of a collaborative effort. Until recently, however, these American-trained conservators rarely work-ed on excavations in the New World (Morris and Seifert 1978). The early collaboration on excavated objects between art historical and classical scholars and conservators may have helped to disguise the lack of contact between many American archaeologists and the conservation field.

In contrast to the long-standing training support for archaeological conservation in the United Kingdom, in close proximity to archaeological training, in the United States there has been little opportunity for students with this specific interest. George Washington University in Washington, D.C., ran a program in archaeological and ethnographic conservation from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The art conservation programs at the State University College at Buffalo (previously the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Conservation of Historic Works, started in 1970) and the University of Delaware (started in 1974) have traditionally been oriented toward fine and decorative arts. The Conservation Center of New York University Institute of Fine Arts (founded in 1960), which provides primarily art history–based training, has had some opportunities for students to get field experience through its long-standing relationship with the classical excavations at Sardis in Turkey and Samothrace in Greece.

Students in the U.S. programs who have an interest in archaeological materials have gained experience through summer intern-ships with archaeological collections and on excavations, almost always abroad. However, there is some debate about whether this training is extensive enough to allow these students to understand the different approaches, treatments, and ethics required for conservation of archaeological materials as opposed to art objects (NIC 1984; Moyer 1988; Thornton 1989). Conservation training is generally separate from anthropological archaeology. The traditional lack of support for scientifically based conservation from American archaeology has also stymied development of conservation programs in close association with anthropology departments. Realization of this lack has spurred recent development of training. For example, the NYU program has begun specific training in anthropological objects (Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts 1989). The Conservation Analytical Laboratory at the Smithsonian Institution has begun offering third-year and postgraduate internships in archaeological conservation.


Copyright 1993 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works