Get your field work for nothin’ and your sherds for free: compensation for archaeological field conservators

Suzanne Davis and Claudia Chemello


A wealth of information exists on the practice of archaeological field conservation, and many objects conservators will provide field conservation for an archaeological project at some point in their careers. However, very little has been published about the business aspects of this work. For example, what services do archaeological conservators typically provide? Is there a standard? How are they paid for their work and by whom? How many conservators volunteer their time for archaeological projects and why?

To answer some of these questions, the authors developed an anonymous online survey to gather data about the work practices of archaeological conservators. The primarily multiple choice survey was designed to collect information about archaeological field conservators, including their level of experience and education, where they work, the services they provide, and their rates and methods of financial compensation over the past ten years.

In addition to a discussion of the survey’s findings, this paper will describe the methodology and design of the survey as well as give demographic data on the respondents. The authors will also examine prevailing attitudes about compensation for archaeological field work. Finally, they will provide suggestions as to how our professional body might use the data generated by this survey.

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