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Conservation Lab

OLogy Series
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card
233

Conservation Lab

OLogy Series
place

Many artifacts at the American Museum of Natural History will spend time in the Conservation Lab, the Museum's hospital for artifacts! This is where artifacts are examined, treated, repaired, and stabilized to make sure that future generations of people can study and enjoy them. Conservators study the materials the artifacts are made of, as well as how the artifacts were made, and then figure out how to preserve them.

When conservators repair an artifact, their goal is to:

restore it so that it looks like itÂ’s in perfect condition

restore it so that it will last a long time

restore it so that it sparkles and shines

Are you right?

Correct!

It's more important to make sure that an artifact passes the test of time than to make it look perfect or like new. It's good for archaeologists to know as much about the artifact's original condition as possible. Flaws in an artifact can tell us a lot about how it was used and what it was used for.

When insects are found on an artifact, conservators will:

spray it with bug repellent

yell for help

freeze it

Are you right?

Correct!

Insects love to sink their teeth into artifacts made with fur, feathers, and other organic materials. A special cold-temperature treatment can be used on many types of artifacts that will kill the insects eating an artifact without damaging the artifact itself.

Materials used to make the display cases that exhibit artifacts, such as paint and wood, can damage the artifacts they showcase.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Believe it or not, even the paint on a display-case shelf can damage artifacts. Conservators test paints and wood in cabinets to make sure that it doesn't cause artifacts to deteriorate.

The more an artifact is handled, the longer it will last.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Even the most delicate of touches can damage artifacts. Human hands have oils and dirt on them that can damage artifacts made out of metals and other materials.

What: the Conservation Lab
Where: at the American Museum of Natural History
Who works there: conservators with backgrounds in art, art history, chemistry, and archaeology
Common dangers in the preservation of artifacts: sunlight, too much or too little humidity, improper temperature, rough handling

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH.