Tag Archives: artifacts

Detoxifying American Indian artifacts

Decades of antiquated preservation methods have led to the contamination of American Indian artifacts with toxic metals, potentially damaging the artifacts while posing danger to the conservators working with them.

With a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Timberley Roane, associate professor of biology at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, has been researching a means to resolve an environmental quandary involving toxic substances and artifacts such as kachina dolls, pipes, pottery, blankets, mounted animals and ceremonial masks.

“Historically, artifacts might have been treated with a variety of different pesticides to preserve the objects from insects and microbial damage,” Roane said. “Two of the most prevalent pesticides that we’re most concerned with now are mercury and arsenic, as the toxicity of these metals to biological systems is under review.”

Roane, a Lumbee tribe member, collaborated with a Navajo friend who works with the Environmental Protection Agency to conceptualize the use of bacteria as a possible means to extract mercury from these artifacts without damaging them. Due to the presence of mercury, for example, and the risk of dermal or inhalation exposure, some of these artifacts could not be put back into cultural use.

Roane is working with bacteria already living on the artifacts that will allow her to change mercury into a gaseous form that can then be disposed of properly. This builds on her past research that uses naturally occurring bacteria for environmental cleanup.

“With funding from the NCPTT, we’ve been able to isolate mercury-resistant bacteria capable of removing mercury from contaminated media,” she said. “We are very excited by the prospect of being able to remove mercury from treated museum materials, in hopes of mitigating the toxicity of these materials for not only repatriation to tribal members but for anyone who comes in contact with them.”

Traditional methods of removing toxic metals include chemicals, ultraviolet light and heat. These methods can damage materials, which led to Roane’s desire to research less invasive methods to clean collections.

“You have to treat them gently and with respect, especially since some of these materials are considered living by their native peoples,” she said. “New methods like those proposed by the grant procedures offer new hope.”

Roane was granted access to Native American collections at the Arizona State Museum for her research. Dozens of samples have been taken and documented. After the bacteria are grown in the lab they are screened for their ability to turn mercury into a gaseous form. Those bacteria are then tested further.

While much is not known about contamination levels in native artifacts, Roane’s research represents a promising step toward dealing with the contamination from the past while preserving these significant cultural artifacts for the future.

“The start to this project shows a lot of potential,” she said. “We plan to continue our efforts in using bacteria to remove mercury from collections and hope to eventually develop an effective mitigation technology.”

Recently excavated Achaemenid palace reburied for protection

The ruins of an Achaemenid palace discovered in Iran’s Fars Province have been reburied despite having just been excavated by a team of Iranian and Australian archaeologists in February. A lack of funds and preservation infrastructure in the area led to the decision. Among the archaeologists’ findings were a 30-meter long hallway with a flagstone floor and numerous marble artifacts.

After studying excavated artifacts, archaeologists routinely rebury those that cannot be properly cared for in order to protect them from vandalism and environmental conditions.

Earth still ‘best trustee’ for Achaemenid palace

Third Achaemenid Palace Discovered in Bolaghi Valley

Featured thumbnail photo by dynamosquito

Preservation Today Netcast: Iowa Floods, Blogging Museums, Safety on the Net

August 2008 Contents include:

Archeologists confirmed that Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia is the site of President George Washington’s boyhood home. The site was found after a seven year search and more than 500,000 artifacts from 11 time periods have been found.
National Geographic

Fox News

New York Times

RMJM Hiller has been hired to complete an independent evaluation of Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The report should play a major role in decisions concerning the construction of new hospitals in the area. Charity Hospital is the most prominent example of art deco architecture in in New Orleans and it has a history that goes back more than 250 years.

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana

Building Design and Construction

Next American City Magazine

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has acquired 189 acres of one of the nation’s most endangered battlefields. The acquisition will protect Cedar Creek Battlefield for the controversial expansion of a nearby limestone quarry.

Shenandoah Stories

Washington Times

National Park Service Digest

Record-breaking floods across the Midwest have destroyed or damaged numerous cultural institutions, public buildings, rural landscapes and historic districts. Brucemore, a site owned by the National Trust, has become a hub for recovery efforts. Several organizations are heading up recovery efforts including Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area and The American Institute of Conservation.

Iowa Floods

The National Trust Weblog

The 9th annual VAST International Symposium on virtual reality, archeology and cultural heritage will take place in Portugal this December. The symposium will present a dialogue on the present and future of archeology in the 21st century.

VAST Symposium

Only 1,800 gingerbread houses remain in Russia as the country struggles to balance preservation with the demands of development. In Tomsk, Russia, $3 million from the city treasury is being used to restore these buildings.

International Herald Tribune

The New York Times

More than $165,000 have been awarded to fund research projects that use technology to advance preservation. Four projects were funded as part of a grants program administered by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. Those receiving funding include The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Tulane University.

David Morgan, Chief of Archeology and Collections at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, gives information on what the center looks for in a grant proposal and how to apply.

Morgan also speaks about the upcoming “Prospection in Depth” workshop in San Francisco.

Prospection in Depth Archaeology Workshop

Museum 2.0 is a blog by Nina Simon on heritage issues. The site explores how museums can apply social media principles to become more engaging, community-based and vital to society.

Museum 2.0

Jonathon Bailey, creator of Plagiarism Today, one of the web’s top resources for content and privacy issues, talks about how to protect your content online. Bailey discusses the importance of monitoring your content and how to license your work under Creative Commons.

Jonathan Bailey on the web:

Site: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/plagiarismtoday

Podcast: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/

Email: jonathan@plagiarismtoday.com

Online content and Identity protection resources

http://creativecommons.org

http://www.copyscape.com/

http://www.bitscan.com and http://www.copyalerts.com

http://www.copyright.gov

http://www.domaintools.com

http://sciencecommons.org/

http://www.wikipedia.org/

http://www.archive.org

Cast and Crew:
Jeffery K. Guin, executive producer

Brittany Byrd, producer

David Antilley, director

Adam Caldwell, assistant director

Farrah Reyna, anchor

Lane Luckie, anchor

Partners in this production:

City of Natchitoches, La.

Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area

National Center for Preservation Technology & Training

Northwestern State University of Louisiana