JAIC 2003, Volume 42, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 237 to 244)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2003, Volume 42, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 237 to 244)




The purpose of this article was to present a new treatment strategy for archaeological ceramics. Considering the examples chosen for this study, the treatment was successful in achieving the goal of replacing an unstable adhesive with one that appears to be much more stable and doing this in a fraction of the time required by more traditional treatment methods. In addition, the object's appearance was improved, and valuable information was maintained.

Precautions should be taken when embarking on this treatment. Some objects might not be appropriate for this treatment, including those with solventsensitive surface treatments, extremely porous vessels, or those that contain soluble salts. Although darkening or white tidelines are a possibility, they were not witnessed in this treatment except when water was not used as a pretreatment barrier.

Visual inspection under normal and ultraviolet illumination demonstrated that the vast majority of the cellulose nitrate adhesive was removed from the joins, as well as from the interior and exterior of the vessels. While performing this treatment, it is difficult to know exactly how much cellulose nitrate remains, but it is clear that enough can be removed to allow for the addition of Paraloid B-72 to achieve a strong join.

Paraloid B-72 is regarded as a highly stable adhesive and is the suggested adhesive for archaeological ceramics (Koob 1986). The solubility of both Paraloid B-72 and cellulose nitrate over time has been well documented, indicating that this technique will remain reversible. In summary, the author emphasizes that adhesive replacement seems best suited as a costeffective method for the stabilization of old cellulose nitrate reconstructions in storage or study collections. The technique is fairly simple and with practice could be performed by a trained technician.


The author would like to thank Greg Byrne for encouraging me to pursue and refine this technique. Overall thanks go out to all at the National Park Service laboratory in Harpers Ferry, and to all my friends and colleagues who supported and backed me in this effort.

Copyright 2003 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works