Focus on Leadership
The story of nine remarkable curators, conservators and preparators and their work in the Anthropology Conservation Lab.



150 Years of Collections Preservation
A review of archival records discloses shifting priorities and uncovers a few unsung heroes of this remarkable

ICOM Ethnographic
Conservation Newsletter

ACL staff produced the newsletter from 1994–1999, reaching an international audience of more than 800 readers.

No. 19 — April 1999
No. 18 — Oct 1998
No. 17 — April 1998
No. 16 — Oct 1997
No. 15 — April 1997
No. 13 — March 1996

Contact Us

Anthropology Conservation Laboratory
Dept of Anthropology
Smithsonian Institution
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746

Department of Anthropology
Anthropology Conservation Laboratory

The ACL provides professional care for collections; reviews prospective acquisitions and loans; prepares collections for exhibit and loan; maintains objects on exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History; reviews sampling requests; advises on object care; and implements preventive conservation projects.

Earlier Work in the Conservation Lab


Anchorage Loan Conservation Project Almost 600 ethnographic objects were prepared for Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage, an NMNH Arctic Studies Center exhibit in a new wing of the Anchorage Museum that opened in May of 2010. Read more about this collaboration between Native consultants and conservators.


Totem Poles Moved 3 Northwest Coast totem poles are moved to new locations in the Museum, requiring teamwork and precise planning.
iraq_a130021_tiny.jpg Iraqi Colleagues Visit the Conservation Lab 10 museum professionals from the Iraq National Museum of Antiquities participated in a variety of training practicums in the ACL in 2004.

Conservation and Study of Two Yup’ik Ceremonial Masks Historic 19th century masks collected by Edward Nelson are conserved, restored and recontructed.

colorimetry_tiny.jpg Colorimetric Analysis of Seminole Textiles —The ACL uses an instrumental technique to determine when the light level in an exhibition starts fabrics fading.
makah_tiny.jpg 19th Century Makah BasketThe ACL staff clean, humidify and preserve a large collapsable basket collected on the northern coast of Vancouver in 1874 by James G. Swan.

Silk from the Sea ACL staff and volunteers lend their expertise to the conservation of an unusual hand glove knit from the fiber of a Mediterranean mollusk.

Nora Lockshin Eskimo Drawings Conserved for Pathbreaking Exhibition — Read how Nora Lockshin and other Smithsonian conservators prepared Guy Kararook's drawings for exhibition at the Anchorage Museum.
waxydeposit_tiny.jpg The Conservator's Eye: Learning to Expect the Unexpected — ACL Staff used a technique called infrared spectroscopy on a suspicious, moldy-looking deposit discovered on a wooden figurine from Mali.
Leanna Oversize Anthropology Collections  Totem poles, heavy statues, canoes and hundreds of other large and heavy artifacts have been moved to a special area in the Museum Support Center. Storing the big ones takes teamwork and plenty of planning. Here's how they did it.
Detail of Egyptian sqeeze Egyptian Squeezes Conserved   — ACL staff conserved 104 bas-relief squeezes from Egyptian monuments that were donated to the Smithsonian in 1874. Because they are not typically considered museum "objects," paper materials are often the most overlooked and least researched.
Plains Indian headdress The Challenges of Ethnographic Conservation — Before an elaborate Plains Indian headdress attributed to Tall Bull (Cheyenne) could be loaned for an exhibit, it was humidified, relaxed, repositioned and placed on a special bracket.
Sue Bosma at work Homo Neanderthalensis Specimen Rehoused — Due to its high research value, ACL staff designed a new storage system for a remarkable 60,000-year-old specimen of Homo neanderthalensis excavated in the Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq.
case29_basket2_tiny.jpg American Indian Hall Objects Conserved — For 47 years, the public visited the American Indian Hall to see artifacts created by the peoples of South and Central America, the American Southwest, and California.
laminated document Guidelines for the Care of Works on Paper with Cellulose Acetate LaminationA well-intentioned attempt to address the condition of fragile historic documents is not the cure-all that librarians and archivists had envisioned.

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