So far away from me? Conservation and archaeology

Suzanne Davis and Claudia Chemello


Conservation is integral to the practice of archaeology, and many conservators and archaeologists would like more sustained collaboration. However, little has been done to examine archaeologists’ need for, access to, and utilization of conservation resources. For example, how do archaeologists identify and hire appropriate conservators? Do they have access to the conservation information and services they need? Is conservation prohibitively expensive or affordable for excavations?

This paper presents part two of a survey-based research project conducted by the authors to examine the working relationship between conservation and archaeology. In this phase of the project, the authors conducted an online, anonymous survey of archaeologists who direct field projects. Completed in 2012, the primarily multiple choice survey collected information about the respondents and the projects they direct, with an emphasis on their knowledge of conservation and their engagement with professional conservators. Funding for conservation on excavations was examined, as was the archaeologists’ need for and access to information about conservation. One section of the survey asked specifically about the respondents’ familiarity with the American Institute for Conservation and their ability to access, navigate, and use resources available through the organization and its website.

In addition to presenting results from the survey of archaeological field directors, this paper will include brief demographic information on the respondents and will describe the survey’s design and methodology. Finally, the authors will discuss how our professional body might use the data generated by this survey to improve outreach and better connect with the archaeological community. Developing and sustaining avenues for communication between archaeology and conservation will not only benefit the preservation of archaeological sites and artifacts, it will also have a positive impact on implementing and disseminating best practices in both of these allied professions.

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