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Examining and Describing Objects in a Condition Report

August 8th, 2014

When examining objects, it is important that conservators describe them in great detail. This can help document what condition an object is in before treatment, identify any changes that have happened to the material over time, or to just provide a record in the event the object is damaged or lost. Photographs can also be helpful in this process, but sometimes areas of damage aren’t visible.

When you are examining an object it is important to record your observations about what the object is, what it is made out of, how it was constructed, and what condition it is in. Are there any attached pieces? Is there any evidence of previous repairs?

Here is a guide to help identify the types of terms that conservators use:

Methods:

  • visual examination: viewed with your eyes
  • microscopic evaluation: viewed using microscopic tools
  • macroscopic: viewed with your eyes

Shapes:

  • round
  • flat
  • square
  • rectangular
  • bulbous

Surface Features/Decorations:

  • convex (curving outwards)
  • concave (curving inwards)
  • pitted
  • entire surface: a feature that is present on the whole object
  • localized: a feature that is present in only one or two areas
  • sporadic: a feature that is present in a few areas with no apparent pattern

Condition:

  • cracked: still held together, not split all the way through
  • split: the material has separated through each layer, can still be joined or totally separated
  • fragmented: broken apart into pieces
  • detached: completely separated from
  • folded: one layer that has been folded over another
  • discolored: a change from the original color
  • abraded: surface has been worn away
  • delaminated: separated into layers
  • flaking: separated into layers and detaching
  • Also see: http://www.aiccm.org.au/resources/visual-glossary

 

It is also important not to use words that are too general. If you were reading your description in 100 years, would you be able to picture the object without an image? Here are some words not to use!

  • Broken: Where? How? In what way?
  • Damaged: Where? How? In what way?

 

Other useful resources:

http://mgnsw.org.au/sector/resources/online-resources/collection-care/condition-reports-how-guide/

http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/MHII/mh2appc.pdf

http://www.aiccm.org.au/resources/visual-glossary

http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/skill-of-describing.html

http://cityofangelsconservation.weebly.com/blog/how-a-conservator-sees

General Conservation, Research and Experiments , , , , ,

Field Conservation Methods and the Impact on Organic Residue Analysis

April 3rd, 2014

Field Conservation Methods and the Impact on Organic Residue Analysis

 Sophia Carman

            A main goal of field conservation is to prevent further deterioration and to promote long-term preservation of recently excavated artifacts. This is achieved by various techniques designed to clean and stabilize degraded materials. Additionally, field conservators are also able to make suggestions on proper handling and storage of artifacts, focusing on the continued preservation and longevity of artifacts. Consequently, these techniques may not preserve other important information, such as that from organic residues present on the surface or within the matrix of artifacts (Paterakis 1996). It could be considered contradictory to preserve one aspect of an artifact while destroying another. Oudemans and Erhardt (1996) argue that “there may be a difference in the purpose of conservation treatments, usually directed at preservation and consolidation of the physical, structural and optical qualities of an artifact, and treatments for organic residue analysis, primarily directed at the preservation of chemical characteristics of the original material” (104). Therefore, attention needs to be drawn to proper handling, storage, and conservation of archaeological objects, keeping in mind the preservation of all avenues of information that the object may provide.

Image 1

Figure 1: Canaanite amphora sherd from Amarna with visible organic residues on the inner surface. From: http://www.amarnaproject.com/pages/recent_projects/material_culture/canaanite.shtml

 

Traditional field conservation techniques can interfere with organic residue sampling and subsequent analysis (Oudemans & Erhardt 1996; Paterakis 1996). Simple techniques to clean ceramics, such as mechanical cleaning with a brush or wet cleaning with water, may remove organic residues from the surface. Other techniques, such as acid cleaning and consolidation, have the potential of destroying the organic residues altogether. In addition, contaminants can skew the results of organic residue analysis or render the organic residue unobtainable. Such contamination can occur at various points in the excavation and conservation process and is usually the result of the improper handling or storage of an object. Factors, such as fingerprints, transportation, plasticizers from plastic bags, inadequate storage environments, and so on, are examples of points during the excavation process where contaminants can be introduced. Therefore, recent advances in the analysis of organic residues have created a need for a re-evaluation of the treatment and care of archaeological ceramics.

Scholars, such as Paterakis (1996) and Oudemans and Erhardt (1996), have made suggestions on proper treatment procedures of archaeological artifacts after excavation, in specific reference to the preservation of organic residues. It is stated that if organic residue analysis is to be conducted on an object, the recommendation for the handling of the vessel is minimum intervention. Such handling was demonstrated by Evershed et al. (1994) in the collection of recently excavated potsherd samples. It is stated, “Sample handling was kept to a minimum to reduce the possibility of contamination from skin lipids, and the samples were not washed or otherwise cleaned prior to storage” (910). Further analysis of these organic residues did not reveal any contaminations due to excavation or conservation.

The concept of minimal intervention will not only add to the preservation of organic residues, but also promote the preservation of the structure of the object itself. As conservators, we must be cautious of over cleaning, conserving or restoring artifacts at a risk of causing more damage than preservation. Once the information stored within an object is obtained and analyzed, other conservation techniques can be applied to the object. In this way, the full spectrum of information and preservation can be achieved.

 

References

Evershed, R. P, K. I. Arnot, J. Collister, G. Eglinton, and S. Charters. 1994. Application of Isotope Ratio Monitoring Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry to the Analysis of Organic Residues of Archaeological Origin. Analyst 119:909-914.

Oudemans, Tania F.M., and David Erhardt. 1996. Organic residue analysis in ceramic studies: implications for conservation treatment and collections management. In Archaeological Conservation and Its Consequences. Preprints of the Contributions to the Copenhagen Conference, 26-30 August 1996. Ashok Roy and Perry Smith, eds. Pp. 137-142. London: International Institute for Conservation.

Paterakis, Alice Boccia. 1996. Conservation: Preservation versus analysis? In Archaeological Conservation and Its Consequences. Preprints of the Contributions to the Copenhagen Conference, 26-30 August 1996. Ashok Roy and Perry Smith, eds. Pp. 143-148. London: International Institute for Conservation.

Archaeological Conservation, Research and Experiments, Science , , , ,

Study Abroad-Israel 2013

February 6th, 2013

Summer Abroad 2013

Program Itinerary and Academic Schedule

July 7-July 27, 2013

Ever wondered what it would be like to travel to the Middle East? Curious to see first-hand the sights described in the Bible? Maybe you are interested in gaining valuable field experience in archaeological conservation? Join us as we travel through Israel to Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-el Hesi, Ashkelon, and Ashdod. Our 20-day journey will take us to active archaeological excavations, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and several local and national museums.

 

Title: Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Israel

Program Location: Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-el Hesi, Ashkelon, Ashdod

Program Overview: The preservation of cultural heritage is critical to societies internationally in order to retain personal identity, cultural history, and experiences of the past for the future. This process includes the conservation of built heritage, archaeological sites, material culture, and artworks that are inherent in modern society. This study abroad experience allows students to visit historic and archaeological sites that are critical to our understanding of culture within the human race. Students will gain real world experience in archaeological site preservation techniques by visiting active sites and gain insight into the preservation challenges that archaeologists are facing with material culture from a maritime and terrestrial environment. Israel offers a diverse range of cultural experiences that will enrich student’s exposure to Middle Eastern cultures and experience a variety of lifestyles and customs that are unique to the area. Students will work closely with local conservators and gain hands on experience in field conservation techniques that benefit site interpretation.

 

Credit Hours Possible: 9 CH

 

Graduate Courses Offered:

HIST6992: Directed Studies in History, 3CH

HIST5005: Field Methods in Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation, 6CH

 

Undergraduate Courses Offered:

HIST4533: Directed Studies in History, 3CH

HIST5005: Field Methods in Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation, 6CH

 

Primary Faculty Director:

Susanne Grieve

Director of Conservation

East Carolina University

252-328-4407

GrieveS@ecu.edu

 

Cost: $3721.20 (w/out airfare)

 

For More Information on ECU Summer Abroad Programs, visit: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/summerabroad/.

 

Frequently Asked Questions: (Currently Being Updated):

1) Do I need a visa to travel to Israel?

2) What paperwork do I need to have for traveling?

  • A valid passport that doesn’t expire within 2013.
  • Complete the STEP form.

3) Is it safe to drink the water?

4) What kind of food is there? What if I have a specific dietary concern?

  • Please let the trip leader know if you have any allergies or dietary needs. Most restaurants and eateries have a variety of food options including vegetarian. It is important that you are open to a variety of food options as they can be limited while working in the field. Israel is a melting pot of food. The trip leader is a vegetarian and can attest that the food across the country is delicious! For more ideas on food, check out Israel Food Guide or Wikipedia.

5) Is is safe to travel to the Middle East?

  • While there is conflict occurring in Middle Eastern countries, Israel can be considered relatively safe to travel in. The trip will be canceled in the event of conflicts escalating in Israel to the point that it is no longer safe for Americans. This decision will not based on news headlines or popular media commentary, but rather travel advisories by the Department of State. Please review the current information on Israel for updated information: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

6) Will we be near any of the current conflicts?

  • Israel is located between Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon which have experienced recent conflicts. The Gaza strip and West Bank area are also known to have associations with armed conflict and it is important to be diligent in your awareness of current events and personal safety. We will not be traveling into these areas. The closest we will travel to the West Bank will be Jerusalem for three days and the furthest South we will go is Ruhama.

7) What kind of clothes should I bring?

  • We will be continually on the move, so it is important to wear clothes that are comfortable and easily transported. While we are working in the field, its important that you have clothes that can get dirty and that also protect you from the sun. In July, temperatures reach 75F to 95F during the day with anywhere from 70-90% humidity. The sun is very strong in Israel and you should bring clothes that keep you cool, but also protect you from sunburn. Good places to buy one or two good key pieces are at REI or other outdoor shops which can also give you advice on clothing. Also, bring your swimsuit!

8) What will the temperature be like?

  • Israel is part of a Mediterranean environment. Averages temps can be found at The Weather Channel. It can easily reach 100+F when working in the field.

9) Is this a religious tour?

  • No, this program is for those interested in material culture that has been produced by prehistoric and historical societies. We will be visiting the sites that are described in the Bible which is interesting for those who are both religious and non-religious. Attendees on this trip absolutely must be open to other viewpoints and religions.

10) My parents are concerned about my safety, what should they know about traveling there?

  • It is understandable that you or your family would be concerned about traveling in Israel and the Middle East. Parents are welcome to contact the trip leader if they have any specific questions. We will cancel the trip if we feel that the attendees will be in any possible danger. There is always some degree of risk when traveling overseas, but we will do everything we can to minimize that risk. With that said, it is important that students can take personal responsibility and be able to take direction.

11) What experience does the trip leader have?

  • Susanne has been traveling internationally since she was 12 years old. She has visited, both individually and in groups, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Canada, Virgin Islands, Haiti, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Mexico, England, Scotland, Amsterdam, Cyprus, Israel, Namibia, and South Africa, She participated in leading a group of graduate and undergraduate students around South Africa in conjunction with other faculty. The other professionals that we will interact with on the program also have extensive experience in leading groups in Israel.

12) Is it expensive to purchase food or othr items in Israel?

  • Much like other countries, it will depend on what cities you are in. Food will be covered in the study abroad fees, and will be of similar quality that you would have while traveling (sandwiches for lunch and hot meals for dinner). There are lots of great areas for shopping and opportunities to indulge in the local culture. For an idea of costs, check out Numbeo.

13) Do I need to be an ECU student to attend?

  • No, students from other universities can enroll as well. Please contact the ECU Study Abroad office for more details.

14) What is the itinerary?

  • Specific sites to be visited are still being confirmed. More details will be provided here. Some of the activities will depend on the desires and experience of the attendees.

15) What is expected from me as far as coursework?

  • Students will be expected to actively participate in discussions as well as provide a research paper at the end of the semester. This paper will directly contribute to the sites we visit or conduct conservation treatments with. Students will also give presentations on a specific aspect of Israel before departing. More details will be provided.

16) Can I take more than one Directed Study?

  • Yes, please refer to your advisor for more information on how these courses will fit into your curriculum.

17) Does the recent activity in Israel and Gaza affect the program?

  • At this point, we are not canceling the trip due to the fact that events change very quickly in this area. It is important to stay up to date on the events in Israel and we will be watching for new develoments closely. A great deal of the activity could be due to upcoming elections in January. We will make a final determination in the Spring.

18) Will I recieve a refund if the trip is cancelled?

  • Yes, you will recieve a full refund if the trip is cancelled.

19) What kind of housing will we be in?

Since we will be traveling across the country side, we will stay in variety of housing options including hotels and hostels. The excavation site we will visit in Ruhama will use a kibbutz as a base. See their website for images and more: http://www.orhanruhama.co.il/.

General Conservation, Research and Experiments , ,

Waterlogged Wood Experiment

November 20th, 2009

We are getting closer to the end of the fall semester! Earlier in the semester, the students started an experiment on some non-archaeological waterlogged wood that we recovered from the Tar River. They applied some commonly used wood treatments that archaeological conservators use and wrote observations on how the wood changes during the treatment.

 

Valerie Using Stir PlateNicole Selecting Wood SamplesJennifer Weighting Wood Samples in WaterBran Measuring Chlorides

Research and Experiments ,