Conservation and exhibit of an archaeological fish trap

Ellen Carrlee

Abstract

In 1991, salvage archaeology rescued a 500-700 year old basketry fish trap in Juneau, Alaska. Preliminary treatment with polyethylene glycol (PEG) was done to prevent the collapse of the waterlogged wood, and the trap was held in conformation with an elaborate system of foam, mesh, Plexiglas, and slings that made study or exhibit impossible. The fragile spruce root lashings remained wrapped from salvage. The challenge was how to treat and exhibit an artifact that could not be set down on a flat surface, as it could not support its own weight. The conservator and mount maker worked as a team, each stabilizing areas to allow the other access. The materials used were Japanese tissue with a combination of wheat starch paste and PVA emulsion, bands of Tyvek attached with B-72 to secure lashings, and a three-part approach for overall support with Plexiglas, Mylar slings, and brass mounts.

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