Version 1.1 May 2006

The SHA website is pleased to be the courtesy home of Conservation FAQs and Facts. A group of conservators who regularly handle and treat archaeological materials created this module with professional archaeologists in mind. It is intended as a resource guide that will prompt archaeologists to get specialized conservation care. (Editorial note: this module has been peer reviewed, and meets SHA content standards; it has been professionally edited, although not necessarily to SHA style).

The material contains several layers of information. The FAQ’s address a number of topics and are arranged in a layered format so that they lead from the broadest approach (i.e. the definition of preventive conservation) to a narrower one (i.e. how one monitors relative humidity). The FAQ answers are intended as short, succinct answers. Supporting materials in greater depth are included in the form of text files or PowerPoint presentations. Many of the supporting materials were created as part of presentations given at the Mid-Atlantic Archaeology Conference. Although some of the principles elucidated in the text are universal, others are specifically geared towards the types of materials and conditions commonly found on sites in the Mid-Atlantic region.

We owe profound thanks to the following individuals who have helped in preparing materials or discussing approaches: Anne Goodwill, Kathy Hall, Sara Rivers Cofield, Sarah Watkins-Kenney, Silas Hurry, Bruce Larson, and Gary Burger.

Copyright © 2006 Colleen Brady, Molly Gleeson, Melba Myers, Claire Peachey, Betty Seifert, Howard Wellman, Emily Williams, Lisa Young. All rights reserved. Commercial use or publication of text and graphic images is prohibited. Authors reserve the right to update this information as appropriate.


The questions are organized in the following groups:

  1. Conservation – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?
  2. Preparing for Conservation on Archaeological Excavations
  3. Handling Freshly Excavated Artifacts on Site
  4. Initial Processing of Archaeological Materials
  5. Materials Identification and Condition Assessment
  6. Conservation Treatments
  7. Research and Analysis of Artifacts
  8. Collections Storage and Curation
  9. Storage and Curation of Archaeological Documentation
  10. Publication of Conservation Information
  11. Display of Archaeological Artifacts
  12. Laboratory Maintenance
  13. Disaster Planning for Collections
  14. Glossary of conservation terms