Conservators and archaeologists: Understanding points of tension

Eric Blinman

Abstract

Forging stronger ties between conservators and archaeologists will require a greater understanding of current points of tension. 1) Archaeologists are trained to value information over objects. This is an ethical stance, and although it rarely results in active disdain for objects, it affects our field and laboratory decisions. 2) Archaeology in the United States is analogous to triage. There are rarely sufficient resources to deal with our sites and artifacts from an information perspective, and diversion of funds to artifact conservation means abandoning other lines of excavation or analysis. 3) The unit costs for conservation are at least two to three times those for other archaeological services. At small scales, this discrepancy is minor, but as proportion rises, triage considerations loom large. 4) The fast pace, scheduling, and field settings of archaeology demand a response flexibility that most conservators are poorly prepared for.