“Holy Mammoth, Batman!” conservation education and outreach for the preservation of a Columbian mammoth

Vanessa Muros and Allison Lewis

Abstract

What and how much should we teach non-conservators about archaeological conservation? Should conservators train archaeologists to undertake conservation techniques on site in the absence of a conservator? These are some of the questions raised when in March of 2011, two conservators were asked to consult on methods to excavate and preserve the remains of a Columbian mammoth discovered in Castroville, CA. The salvage excavation team was made up of area archaeologists, volunteers and students from local colleges. Conservators came to the site to advise on techniques and materials for excavating the fragile bone, consolidating tusk and skeletal material in situ, lifting the fragile finds, and post-excavation treatment and storage measures. Due to the logistics of the project, the conservators were not able to permanently work on site but instead had to train archaeologists and students on various conservation techniques, which the team members would have to perform in the absence of a conservator. In this paper, the authors will discuss their work on the project, their education and outreach efforts, and the issues they faced when determining what and how much they should teach non-conservators about conservation.