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About the Lab

About the AMNH Natural Science Collections Conservation Lab

The AMNH Natural Sciences Conservation lab was founded in 2001 on the direction of the Office of the Associate Dean of Science for Collections. The lab’s staff provides oversight for natural science collections conservation as well as preservation and risk management planning for collections museum-wide.

The mission of the lab is to:

  • Oversee disaster preparedness, response and risk management initiatives
  • Liaise between science and operations branches of the museum
  • Educate staff on conservation policies, procedures and standards
  • Assist in upgrading storage conditions
  • Act as a resources for Collections and Exhibition Department personnel on storage, display, moving/transport and treatment of collections
  • Conduct research to further natural science collections preservation
  • Develop museum-wide standards for collections care 
  • Forge links to other organizations working in areas of collections care
  • Conduct treatment on natural science specimens

Day-to-day care of the AMNH collections is the responsibility of the professional Collection Managers in each museum department, who have a good understanding of the preservation needs of their collections. Conservation lab projects and initiatives are devised according to the needs of the collections, staff or researcher requests, and opportunities for professional development. Many of the projects undertaken by the lab have been supported by grant monies from the National Science Foundation, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Becoming a Natural Science Conservator

Conservators are responsible for the long-term preservation of the collections and artifacts in their care. This work requires an understanding of the processes of deterioration, knowledge of strategies that prevent damage, and the manual dexterity to carry out remedial conservation treatments. The broad base of knowledge to conduct this work requires an interdisciplinary background involving studio practices, sciences, and the humanities.

None of the United States conservation graduate programs currently offer specific training in natural science collections conservation. Experience with the specific concerns and challenges of natural science collections preservation is often obtained by interning in a museum lab.

For more information on general conservation training visit the American Institute for Conservation website, which has extensive resources on training and education.

Internships in the AMNH Natural Sciences Conservation Lab

The Natural Science Collections Conservation lab maintains an active program for pre-program, graduate and postgraduate interns.  Projects are generally developed according to the interests and needs of the potential candidate.  Some examples include:

  • Collections risk assessment
  • Treatment of natural science collections
  • Research of preparation methods
  • Collections surveys
  • Collections re-housing

If you are interested in gaining experience in Natural Science Collections Conservation please submit a cover letter and CV via email to: Lisa Kronthal Elkin, lelkin@amnh.org

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

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except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
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