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Objects Conservation

Conservation Lab

The primary function of the Anthropology Division's Objects Conservation Laboratory is to ensure the preservation of the collection for the future. The conservators' main activities include examination, documentation, treatment and preventive care, supported by research and education.

A relatively small number (200 to 450) of Anthropology Division objects are selected yearly to receive full conservation treatment (or what we sometimes call active conservation). These are generally objects chosen for loan to other institutions for exhibits, or for use in temporary or permanent exhibits generated by the American Museum of Natural History. Routine maintenance of the permanent exhibits takes place on an irregular basis, in coordination with the Exhibition Department. Conservation treatment involves thorough examination and written and photographic documentation of the condition of the artifact before and during treatment, as well as a record of its condition as a result of the treatment. In order to carry out responsible conservation treatment an understanding of the chemical nature and the deterioration of the materials of manufacture is required, as well as of the repair materials and processes themselves. Also important to the treatment process is research of the use of the object in its original cultural context. Changes that may have taken place to the object due to damage or repair during use and changes that occurred to the object later while in private collections or in the museum must be distinguished.