Conservators without borders: an international archaeological conservation and outreach initiative

Melina Smirniou, Christie Pohl, and Dominica D’arcangelo


Conservators Without Borders is a volunteer program that provides support to archaeological projects where insufficient funding does not allow for conservation activity. Priority is given to sites in countries where finds are in need of urgent attention, either during or post-excavation. Other objectives of the initiative include outreach to local communities, developing sustainable methods of conservation, collaboration with archaeologists, and training students, volunteers and interested community members. In 2007, Conservators Without Borders was awarded a sum of money by University College London Futures to carry out two pilot seasons in 2007 and 2008. University College London Futures, funded by alumni, staff and friends, awards grants to members of the University College London community for non-research initiatives. This paper describes two collaborative projects undertaken by Conservators Without Borders in 2007.

During the first project, Conservators Without Borders worked alongside archaeologists from the Kythera Island Project on the island of Kythera in Greece. A collection of Minoan, Classical and Roman artifacts were subject to fluctuating environmental conditions and the circumstances worsened following a severe earthquake in 2006. The second project took place in Jordan in cooperation with the country’s Department of Antiquities and involved treating objects from museum collections in Umm Qais, Jarash, Karak, Petra, Irbid and Amman.

Both projects have provided Conservators Without Borders with valuable opportunities to raise the profile of archaeological conservation through close interaction with archaeologists, museum professionals, government officials and students. Helping to build long-term sustainable conservation programs in areas where there is enthusiasm for conservation is rewarding for Conservators Without Borders conservators and stakeholders alike. Conservators Without Borders will return to Greece and Jordan in 2008 for additional conservation work and to build on the foundations laid through the initial outreach and training sessions.

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2008 | Denver | Volume 15