JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 3, Article 1 (pp. 157 to 158)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 3, Article 1 (pp. 157 to 158)


This special issue of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation commemorates the remarkable contributions made to the field of conservation by the late Carolyn Rose. This issue is a project of the Objects Specialty Group (OSG) Publications Committee. As many of you know, Rose was a major force in the field of conservation, promoting methods of preventive conservation, advocacy, collaboration, and training and outreach. I write this introduction with humility, as I never actually worked with Carolyn, but still feel the influence of her important work. Rose's long association with the National Museum of Natural History identified her most closely with archaeological, ethnographic, and natural history collections. Her long association with George Washington University, where she trained and later taught, identified her with education and mentoring. It is a testimonial in itself that more than fifteen papers, many from her former students, were submitted in response to the solicitations for this special issue. Seven of these papers are included in this issue, and other contributions may appear in future issues.

The request for papers to this dedicatory issue suggested some topics that Rose directly promoted, or those which developed as an outgrowth of her visions. Rose discovered conservation during college, through summer internships with Robert Organ at the Conservation Analytical Laboratory (now SCMRE) in 1970 and 1971.1 In the formative years for conservation training in this country, Rose earned a Master's degree at George Washington University in special studies, with concentrations in anthropology, art history and classical archaeology, conservation science, and museum studies.2 Out of this background, Rose developed strong beliefs which she applied in her work at the National Museum of Natural History and in her teaching. She believed that conservation techniques developed for fine arts collections were inappropriate for archaeological and ethnographic materials. Consequently Rose developed and taught treatments requiring less intervention, designed to preserve evidence of cultural use and research potential. Rose believed that care of museum collections as a whole, and not just exhibits, should be institutional priorities, ideas which she advocated nationally. Methods designed to protect collections in storage, and during handling and transport, were developed and disseminated through her work.

Regarding the special needs of archaeological and ethnographic materials, Rose felt that when considering conservation, the cultural use of an object prior to being collected should be regarded as more important than aesthetic qualities conferred after being collected. In their paper, Johnson et al. articulate conservation collaborations at the National Museum of American Indian that grew out of working directly with cultural representatives of the objects being conserved. Important case studies are described which offer models for conservators working with Native Americans.

On another emphasis, Hansen and her co-authors point out how, together with other staff at the National Museum of Natural History, they continue a legacy of collections care which Rose helped transform. The increase in benefits to collections in storage as a result of preventive measures is evidenced not only in Hansen et al., but in papers co-authored by Kaplan, and by Muething. The reliance on communication and collaboration in order to achieve collections care, as emphasized in the paper by Kaplan et al. on the move of the National Museum of American Indian collections, reflect back to Rose's belief in the collection as an institutional responsibility. Raphael also stresses communication in support of collections care, by drafting guidelines and standards that can be used to communicate conservation grade display techniques to exhibits personnel. With examples from the Canadian Museum of Nature, Muething et al. demonstrate how the risk of damage to collections can be assessed, which is a precursor to carrying out preventive steps in a cost-effective way for a large collection.

Central to preventive conservation is monitoring and perhaps modifying the museum environment, which is equally important in art museums as in natural history museums. Research, such as that carried out by Bradley at the British Museum, has benefited the practices of collections care personnel worldwide. Her review of research from the British Museum, particularly in the area of pollutants, is an important contribution to this journal. Dandridge targets a specific environmental pollution problem, that of the tarnishing of silver, and outlines different approaches taken at the Metropolitan Museum to retard this process. By generously describing both successes and failures, he permits others to benefit from his experience.

The papers in this issue of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation clearly illustrate the influence of a visionary colleague. Contributions by Rose's students and colleagues, and by others who never directly worked with her, convey ideas about collaborative stewardship, controlling damage and deterioration, and respect for cultural attributes. The continued invention and dedication devoted to these avenues within conservation is a fitting memorial to a beloved member of the profession.

  • —Ellen J. Pearlstein
  • Former Chair, OSG Publications Committee
  • UCLA/Getty Program in Archaeological and
  • Ethnographic Conservation
  • Los Angeles, California


1. http://www.nmnh.si.edu/anthro/conservation/gibson_rose_obituary.htm

2. http://www.nmnh.si.edu/anthro/features/rose.htm

a: Notes
Entire Article

Copyright 2005 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works