Call for Participation: New Annual Meeting Event “A Failure Shared is Not a Failure”

AIC members from all specialty groups are invited to attend and participate in the event “A failure shared is not a failure: learning from our mistakes,” happening on Saturday, June 2nd, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — click here to add it to your Sched. We will gather and share our cautionary tales, including treatment errors, mishaps, and accidents, with the idea of helping our colleagues not to repeat them.

Discussing mistakes is a hot topic that has already been embraced by others in our community. Two examples of events scheduled during the month of May are: “Mistakes were made,” a regular feature at the American Alliance of Museums conference, and the lecture “Conservation Confidential” hosted by our conservation colleagues across the pond in the Independent Paper Conservators’ Group.

Participants can speak for up to 5 minutes; if you prefer to remain anonymous, a reader will be happy to present your tale on your behalf. If you are unable to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting but would like to submit a tale to be read by one of our organizers or a colleague, please reach out.

Screens to project PowerPoint slides containing your images/video will be available (16:9 format), and a Dropbox folder will be made available for submissions. Please also bring your presentation on a USB Drive (highly encouraged). Time permitting, audience members inspired by their colleagues will be welcome to present. If appropriate (and acceptable to the speaker), the floor will be opened for questions and discussion following presentations. Extra points for suggesting safeguards and solutions!

Please note that this is a forum for sharing personal mistakes and solutions only. Participants are requested not to name other persons, organizations, work places, and avoid politics—institutional, national, and global!

The event will include a cash bar, so come, relax, unwind, share, laugh, groan, and learn. We plan to publish the event for those who wish to be included.

If you are interested in participating or have questions about the event, please contact Tony Sigel at or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at by May 10th.

Please include 2-3 quick sentences introducing your topic and indicate whether you plan to use a PowerPoint with images and/or video.

See you in Houston!

Call for Papers – Cultural Heritage Management Sessions (ASOR 2017)

Session Chairs: Glenn Corbett, American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), and Suzanne Davis, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

We are seeking abstract submissions for the Cultural Heritage Management session(s) of the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting, which will be held in Boston, MA, November 15-18, 2017. This session welcomes papers concerning archaeological conservation and heritage management in terms of methods, practices, and case studies in areas throughout the Near East. For the 2017 meeting, we are especially interested in presentations focusing on:

·         site conservation and preservation activities

·         site management planning

·         engagement and education of local communities

Interested speakers should submit a title and abstract (max. 250 words) by February 15, 2017. Please see ASOR’s call for papers and instructions for submission here: Note that professional membership ($130) and registration for the Annual Meeting (~$175) are required at the time of abstract submission. Student rates are discounted.

Please send inquiries or questions to Glenn Corbett ( and Suzanne Davis (

International Archaeology Day at the Penn Museum

October 15 is International Archaeology Day (IAD), which is sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America and held each year on the third Saturday of October. AIC is registered as a Collaborating Organization for IAD this year and we are encouraging all AIC members to promote this event, archaeology, and how we as conservation professionals support archaeological projects and collections. You can do this in many ways, including by posting on the AIC and ADG Facebook pages and on the AIC blog, with a tag for International Archaeology Day. The hashtag for social media is #IAD2016.
As ADG co-chair and conservator at the Penn Museum, I will take this opportunity to promote the Penn Museum Symposium, Engaging Conservation: Collaboration Across Disciplines, taking place this week in Philadelphia from 6-8 October 2016. This 3-day symposium is being held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Penn Museum’s Conservation DepartmentFounded in 1966, it is thought to be the first archaeology and anthropology museum conservation lab in the United States to be staffed by professional conservators. 
Penn Museum Conservation Lab in 1968 (above) and in 2016 (below)
Penn Museum Conservation Lab in 1968 (above) and in 2016 (below)
The Symposium will feature 31 paper presentations by conservators, archaeologists, anthropologists, and specialists in related fields, which will address topics related to the conservation of archaeological and anthropological materials and the development of cross-disciplinary engagement over the past half century. The full schedule and abstracts can be found on the symposium website by following this linkLook for upcoming posts summarizing the events.
The Penn Museum will be hosting a variety of other events on October 15th in celebration of IAD, including offering behind-the-scenes tours of the Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM). CAAM opened in 2014, and encompasses teaching and research labs, staffed by specialists in ceramics, archaeobotany, archaeozoology, human skeletal analysis, archaeometallurgy, digital archaeology, and conservation.
CAAM teaching specialist Dr. Kate Moore working with students (left); view of one of the teaching labs (right)
CAAM teaching specialist Dr. Kate Moore working with students (left); view of one of the teaching labs (right)
We look forward to hearing about other ways in which our colleagues are involved in supporting archaeological projects and collections. Happy International Archaeology Day!

Grant: NPS Announces 2017 Preservation Technology and Training Grant Funding Opportunity


 WASHINGTON –The National Park Service (NPS) today opened the application period for 2017  Preservation Technology and Training  Grants (PTT Grants) to create better tools, better materials, and better approaches to conserving buildings, landscapes, sites, and collections. The PTT Grants are administered by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), the National Park Service’s innovation center for the preservation community. NCPTT has set aside $300,000 for the grant program, pending the availability of funding.

Kirk Cordell, Deputy Associate Director for Science, Technology & Training, said “NCPTT’s grants program supports innovative projects that develop new tools and technologies to improve the preservation of the nation’s historic resources.”

The competitive grants program will provide funding to federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, and non-profit organizations. PTT Grants will support the following activities:

  • Innovative research that develops new technologies or adapts existing technologies to preserve cultural resources (typically $25,000 to $40,000)
  • Specialized workshops or symposia that identify and address national preservation needs (typically $15,000 to $25,000)
  • How-to videos, mobile applications, podcasts, best practices publications, or webinars that disseminate practical preservation methods or provide better tools for preservation practice (typically $5,000 to $15,000) 

The maximum grant award is $40,000. The actual grant award amount is dependent on the scope of the proposed activity.

NCPTT does not fund “bricks and mortar” grants.

 NCPTT funds projects within several overlapping disciplinary areas.  These include:

  • Archeology
  • Architecture
  • Collections Management
  • Engineering
  • Historic Landscapes
  • Materials Conservation

In order to focus research efforts, NCPTT requests innovative proposals that advance the application of science and technology to historic preservation in the following areas:

  • Climate Change Impacts
  • Disaster Planning and Response
  • Modeling and Managing Big Data
  • Innovative Techniques for Documentation
  • Protective Coatings and Treatments

Other research topics may be considered for funding.

Who may apply?

  • U.S. universities and colleges,
  • U.S. non-profit organizations: museums, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activity, and
  • government agencies in the U.S.: National Park Service and other federal, state, territorial and local government agencies, as well as Hawaiian Natives, Native American and Alaska Native tribes and their Tribal Historic Preservation Offices.

Other organizations can participate only as contractors to eligible U.S. partners. Grants funds support only portions of projects that are undertaken or managed directly by U.S. partners and expended in the U.S. and its territories.

How do I apply?

Applications must be submitted using Search in for Funding Opportunity #P16AS00579, under Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number 15.923 or 2017 Preservation Technology and Training Grants.

When is the deadline for applications?

Applications must be submitted by 11:59pm EDT Thursday, November 3, 2016.  If the project is funded, applicants should expect to be able to begin work no sooner than July 2017.

For questions about the  please contact NCPTT at 318-356-7444.

44th Annual Meeting—Gap Filling for Ceramics Workshop

The Gap Filling for Ceramics workshop brought together conservators from various backgrounds to experiment while learning practical tips from Rachael Perkins Arenstein, Conservator at the Bible Lands Museum, and Elisheva Kamaisky, Head Ceramics Conservator at the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. The day passed quickly as the workshop was packed with PowerPoint presentations and hands-on activities with spackles, plaster, epoxy techniques suited to archaeological and fine arts contexts. Like many participants I took the class as an opportunity to learn from others and practice without the pressure of working on a museum object. Having focused on ceramics this year, I am familiar with the materials and techniques discussed, but I found it an opportune chance to break out of my familiar habits, review the properties and different reasons for choosing plaster versus bulked Paraloid B-72, for example, or ways of manipulating Milliput and refining plaster.

Elisheva Kamaisky demonstrating how she uses a balloon attached to the end of a plastic tube to create a backing inside a jug with a small neck and rim, which blocks easy access to the interior.

The program moved through the various stages of the filling process beginning with discussions of how to protect the surrounding surface from ghosting. For porous unglazed surfaces, common in archaeological contexts, Elisheva often uses masking tape or low-tack painter’s tape, pinching around the edges of fills to prevent the infiltration of plaster. Using tape is always evaluated on a case by case basis depending on the stability of the surface and its ability to withstand tape. Elisheva also showed different strategies she uses for backing of plaster fills, such as layering masking tape to conform to the shape of the ceramic, heated wax, and balloons.
My experimental flower pot generously broken and reassembled by Elisheva and Rachael. Here I have used masking tape to protect the edges and build a backing for fills.

Elisheva showing an example of a tinted plaster fill before drying

The class then discussed tips for mixing and refining plaster, such as how to use a rasp appropriately, when to begin shaving down a fill, and when to stop working it and allow it to dry for wiping down and sanding. Rachael talked about different uses for ready-made spackles and their different properties, pros and cons of using Modostuc, Flugger and PolyFilla. She also referred to different uses of Milliput and gave tips for how to refine it with water before it is dry. This I found particularly useful because refining as much as possible while it is still pliable saves an immense amount of time wasted with sanding or grinding excess material afterwards. I also found the discussion of problems related to B-72 fills helpful as Paraloid is not always easy to work with, and can be difficult to compact. At the end of the day I was very glad to have taken the workshop, and could tell that other participants felt the same as it was a great opportunity to discuss strategies, problems and challenges with conservators with a breadth of experience, and other conservators ranging from those in private practice, to museum conservators who brought expertise with other materials such as wood or stone. It was also a fun way to prepare for the conference, reminiscent of being in graduate school, and getting your hands dirty.

44th Annual Meeting, Objects Session, May 17th, “The Use of Gums and Resins in Archaeology and Microchemical Tests for their Identification,” by Christina Bisulca

Christina Bisulca presented a fascinating paper that not only described the source of and uses for pine resins and insect lacs but also detailed various methods of testing for these substances in the lab. The Arizona State Museum is home to a collection of 35,000 objects representing every major cultural group in the southwest from Paleo-Indian to the historic period. As part of a conservation and rehousing project made possible by a Save America’s Treasures grant, conservators hoped to analyze and identify adhesive resins present within the collection.

Map showing regions mentioned in the talk

Certain plants and insects are found only within particular regions of Arizona due to the huge range of elevation and environmental biomes within the state. Since three of the most prolific cultures, the Hohokam, Mogollan, and Ancestral Puebloan occupied very different biomes, it was assumed their use of natural adhesives would vary according to location. Creosote lac
The Hohokam, for example used creosote lac, a polyester resin derived from an insect on the creosote bush found in desert lowlands. On the more northerly Colorado Plateau, where the Ancestral Puebloans lived, piñon pine was a plentiful source of diterpenoid resin. In general, Bisulca and her team assumed insect lac was used in the south and pine resin in the north.
Initial analysis was done with Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) but researchers had trouble gathering reference plant material. They also realized these high tech, expensive tests are not readily available to many archaeologists, so they used microchemical tests in addition. Since no reliable microchemical test existed for shellac the team developed one based on the pH dependency of color in anthraquinone dyes, which are extracted from lac insects in Asia. In alkaline conditions the dyes turn from orange to purple. The test worked 80% of the time even in their archaeological collection. Where it did not work the resin had likely been charred or highly heated. The results of the tests challenged their assumptions about pine resin being used primarily by the north. In fact the team found more insect lac in the Ancestral Puebloan collection than pine resin. The lac would only have been available to these regions through trade. The researchers also investigated the use of each material. Bisulca used arrows, common to all three cultures, to highlight the different uses for each adhesive. Insect lac is stronger and less brittle so was used by each culture, regardless of location, for hafting the arrowheads to the shaft.
lac ballPotbiface
Overall, Dr. Bisulca’s talk was extremely informative and used excellent images to portray her ideas. The images she used of the lacs and resins as they are found in nature and on ethnographic objects helped to clarify the differences between the source and use of each. I have to admit I had not considered the significance of these resins in terms of their use in tracing trade routes and cultural practices. I am curious to know what similar substances would have been used by Eastern and Plains area cultures and how well such resins would be preserved in damp archaeological environments. This will certainly change the way I approach native material at my own site.
All images are from a poster on insect lac by Christina Biscula available here.
Information about the authors is available from The Arizona State Museum’s website.

44th Annual Meeting, May 17, Objects, Conservation and investigation of ancient bodies at Abydos– Challenging work in post-revolutionary Egypt. Lucy-Anne Skinner and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim.

Lucy-Anne Skinner spoke about the conservation of human remains at the site of Abydos, Egypt. Working for the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University project, Lucy had to engineer some novel solutions when two unusual burials needed to be block lifted. Lucy explained that block lifting an entire burial is not common at Abydos, as most graves are fully excavated in the field. Two graves excavated in the 2012 season in the North Cemetery presented unusually complete assemblages of grave goods,  with one wearing a beaded headdress over well-preserved hair, and these factors prompted the conservators to block lift rather than to try to treat the components in situ.

The team of workmen working with the conservator helped build a wooden frame and slide metal sheets underneath, so that the entire burial could be lifted. Foil was used as a barrier layer, and expandable spray foam was used to lock components into place so that the burial could be transported back to the lab and eventually (in another field season) flipped over to work from the bottom to stabilize the lower portion of the coffin before addressing the human remains and other components.  Lucy showed many details of the extraordinary finds including beautiful hippo ivory clappers. Though this project began in 2012, conservation of the burials was only completed a few days before this talk was presented (really!). Political instability in Egypt and the extraordinary logistical challenges surrounding excavating in a country undergoing political and social upheaval complicated the timeline and created extra challenges for the conservators.
Transporting a block-lifted burial to the depot at Abydos, Egypt (image courtesy Abydos excavations, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University)
Transporting a block-lifted burial to the depot at Abydos, Egypt (image courtesy Abydos excavations, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University)
For me, the big takeaways were that conservation in the field requires a great deal of planning and then a lot of on-the-fly creativity. Many digs lack a field conservator, but clearly the planning and execution of this complicated project really benefited from having Lucy on site over the course of multiple seasons. The project took several years to complete, so communication and planning in the off-season was needed for a successful outcome. Particularly challenging issues of working within Egypt while in the middle of a period of crisis were dealt with admirably by Lucy and her colleagues.

44th Annual Meeting, May 16, Research and Technical Studies, Visible-Induced Luminescence Imaging: Past, Current and Future Applications in Conservation Research, Dawn Kriss and Anna Serotta

I was excited to see the most recent update on VIL imaging as it is an accessible imaging technique that can be used to localize pigments with specific characteristics. It is useful for anyone interested in painted surfaces, and can be used in conjunction with other multispectral imaging, or as a standalone technique.
The basic idea is that you need a light source to produce visible light, a camera with its infrared filter removed, and a bandpass filter to limit the type of light that gets to the camera sensor, along with some standards to help process the images. The pigment particles on the object are excited in the visible range, and emit infrared radiation which is detected by the modified camera. This technique can be used to detect trace remains of pigments that are all but undetectable to the naked eye. The technique was developed by scientists from the British Museum and the Courtauld Institute (see Verri et al., 2009) [1].
In the case studies shown in Dawn and Anna’s presentation the focus was on Egyptian blue, which produces luminescence in the infrared (~910nm) when exposed to visible light. Optimizing the capture and processing protocols will mean better results and hopefully, a means of standardizing and sharing information between conservators working in different labs.  While VIL is gaining popularity as more museums add it to their workflow (for example. as part of the APPEAR project spearheaded by the Getty), the technique is still being developed, with much more progress on the horizon. Dawn and Anna reported on results of a survey of VIL users to show where progress has been made and where we can still expect some improvements in the technique.

gif showing VIL and normal illumination images of Brooklyn Museum's portrait, Noblewoman, ca. 150 C.E. Encaustic on wood. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.226.1, image courtesy Brooklyn Museum
Click for larger image and to view transition! A gif showing VIL and normal illumination images of Brooklyn Museum’s portrait, Noblewoman, ca. 150 C.E. Encaustic on wood. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.226.1, image courtesy Brooklyn Museum
Capture: varying light sources
There are many options for lights used for excitation, so choosing a light source that is targeted to your research question is critical. As an example, the authors described work by my classmate Brian Castriota showing that red LEDs with an output centered at 630 nm caused greater luminescence of Egyptian blue compared to white LEDs. More research on the luminescence characteristics of other pigments will help users optimize their light sources to target specific pigments.
Processing: calibration, standards, and protocols 
While many conservators using VIL use the CHARISMA protocols (developed by the British Museum), others are using Photoshop to process the images. Egyptian blue VIL images are usually shown in monochrome, but as the technique is expanded different overlays or crossfades will help communicate the results by registering the images with other photographs, as Dawn and Anna did for the images shown in their presentation. This is one of the greatest advantages of VIL: it’s very easy to understand the images that are generated and easy to communicate the results to the public. However, capturing good metadata and using appropriate standards are critical for the intercomparability of these data in the future. It will be crucial to develop a luminescence scale or target in order to compare images from institutions who may not be using the exact same capture or processing parameters.
What do we have to look forward to? 
While its initial development as a tool for identifying Egyptian blue has led to its popularity among archaeological conservators, it seems like the technique is ripe for more widespread adoption for research into modern pigments, some of which also have unique luminescence properties.
Conservators can use a variety of wavelengths using targeted or tunable light sources (e.g. the CrimeScope, adapted from the forensics field) to survey visible-induced luminescent pigments (other examples of which include dragon’s blood, Indian yellow, Han blue, cadmium red and yellow). Dawn and Anna showed an example of imaging surveying cadmium pigments used in Stuart Davis’s Mellow Pad carried out by their Brooklyn colleague Jessica Ford. For more on the work from the team at the Brooklyn Museum, see their recent blog post here.
[1] Verri, Giovanni, et al. “Assyrian Colours: Pigments on a Neo-Assyrian Relief of a Parade Horse.” The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 3 (2009): 57–62.


Penn Museum Symposium
6-8 October 2016
Call for papers and posters – Deadline: 4 April 2016
The Conservation Department of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the fall of 2016. To commemorate the establishment of the lab, the Penn Museum is hosting a symposium on issues relating to archaeology, anthropology, and conservation. The symposium will explore how conservation of these materials has evolved over the past half century, the ways in which conservators may inform and support the work of archaeologists and anthropologists, and the development of cross-disciplinary engagement.
Professionals in archaeology, anthropology, or conservation are encouraged to submit abstracts (300 word limit) to by 4 April 2016 for consideration. Presentations will be 20 minutes. Funds toward travel and lodging are available for speakers. Successful applicants will be required to submit the full text and presentation by 30 September 2016. A resulting peer-reviewed publication is planned. Please visit for further guidelines and instructions.
Recommended topics to consider, though others are welcome, include:

  • History of archaeological or anthropological conservation, particularly in university museums
  • Facilitating collaboration between conservators and archaeologists or anthropologists, or other interested parties
  • Planning for conservation in the development of an excavation plan, including funding conservation in the field
  • Education and training
  • Treatment techniques
  • Analysis of materials

In addition to full-length papers, we also invite short-format submissions on topics listed above as well as those related to practical tips and techniques, insights, or questions relating to the symposium theme. Please submit abstracts (300 word limit) to by 4 April 2016 for consideration. These submissions are limited to 5 minutes or less, and an informal approach is appropriate. Successful short-format applicants will be required to submit a digital copy by 30 September 2016 and will be included in the publication following the same guidelines as the full-length papers.

Archaeological Institute of America 2013-2014 Conservation Workshop Summaries and Proceedings Now Available Online

We are very pleased to announce that summaries of two interdisciplinary workshops on the integration of conservation and archaeology are now available on the website of the Archaeological Institute of America at
The publications include full transcripts of the panel presentations and panel discussions, as well as summaries of the key points of both workshops. The workshops were organized by conservators Claudia Chemello, Thomas Roby, Steve Koob and Alice Boccia Paterakis, and were presented in 2013 and 2014 at the AIA’s annual meeting.
The 2013 workshop Integrating Conservation and Archaeology: Exploration of Best Practices brought together conservators and archaeologists for a dialogue about the integration of conservation and field archaeology. Panelists shared their experiences on what constitutes responsible conservation, preservation, and stewardship of archaeological resources. The panel discussed move­able and immoveable cultural heritage, including terrestrial and maritime archaeological sites.
Panelists were C. Brian Rose, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Giorgio Buccellati, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of Los Angeles, Matthew Adams, Institute of Fine Arts, New York Uni­versity, Robert Neyland, Underwater Archaeology Branch, U.S. Navy, Alice Boccia Paterakis, Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology, Kaman-Kalehöyük, Kırşehir, Turkey, Paul Mardikian, H.L. Hunley Project, Clemson University, and Thomas Roby, Getty Conservation Institute.
The 2014 workshop Interdisciplinary Studies: Archaeology and Conservation comprised archaeologists and conservators heavily involved in educational efforts in their respective disciplines and discussed the subject of the cross-education of both fields and the need for interdisciplinary studies.
Panelists were C. Brian Rose, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Pennsylvania, Frank Matero, University of Pennsylvania, John Papadopoulos, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles, Ioanna Kakoulli, UCLA/Getty Program on the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials & Materials Science and Engineering Department, Kent Severson, Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures, Christopher Ratté, University of Michigan, John Merkel, University College London, and Elizabeth Pye, University College London.
We gratefully acknowledge our workshop sponsors: the AIA Conservation and Site Preservation Committee, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (2013). The GCI also provided support for panelist travel and the production of the transcripts of the workshop proceedings
Posted on behalf of Claudia Chemello, Thomas Roby, Steve Koob, and Alice Paterakis
This post is promoted by the AIC’s Archaeological Discussion Group (ADG).  For more information about ADG, please visit ADG’s webpage.” ( )