A PERSPECTIVE ON THE HISTORY OF THE CONSERVATION OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL COPPER ALLOYS IN THE UNITED STATES
From the perspective of the archival materials and publications in the holdings of the Walters Art Gallery, it can be demonstrated that there has been a major change in the approach to the treatment of severely or actively corroding bronzes in the United States. Rather than striving to return an object visually to its original form, there is an emphasis on learning all that one can from the artifact, from its patina, and from its preserved accretions. The conservator and archaeologist today must hesitate to remove soil or corrosion present on an object since such treatment may affect the ability to discover information about the object and its original and burial contexts. If adopted, the proposed revision of the American Institute for Conservation Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice would formalize the conservator's responsibilities to scientific research by requiring the conservator to take into account the effects of materials and methods on future examination and analysis. Since the conservator also has a responsibility to preserve the artifacts, and no permanent, safe, and reliable treatment for “bronze disease” has yet been developed, further collaboration is needed between conservators and scientists to satisfy this need.
The author would like to thank Donna Strahan and Julie Lauffenburger, her colleagues at the Walters Art Gallery, who made many useful suggestions for improving this paper. This paper is dedicated to the late Elisabeth Packard, whose insistence on scrupulous documentation and preservation of records during her many years at the Walters Art Gallery made this historical review possible.