State-of-the-Art Lab Helps Conserve and Protect ASM's Vast Collections

Dr. Nancy Odegaard working with students on a prehistoric vessel


ASM's Preservation Division is the State of Arizona's first museum conservation laboratory, established in the late 1970s. Housed at the museum in a state-of-the-art facility, the conservation laboratory is staffed by Nancy Odegaard, Ph.D. (conservator), Teresa Moreno, M.A., M.A. (associate conservator), Gina Watkinson (administrative assistant), and numerous dedicated volunteers and students.

With support from museum staff, the lab provides preventive and interventive conservation of ASM's vast collections, serves the public through workshops and queries, instructs scores of conservation students, and continues to conduct cutting-edge research in areas such as nano-particle technology, imaging technology, and frozen technology, or the use of dry ice "snow," a technique found to safely remove dust, soot, and other contaminates from delicate surfaces without causing scratches or other damage.

ASM conservators collaborate with museum colleagues, University of Arizona departments, as well as regional, national, and international cultural communities, institutions, and related agencies to meet the ethical, legal and educational concerns related to their responsibilities and to learn more about the most current preservation research and practices.

In the 1980s, curricula for the care of archaeological and ethnographic collections, as well as an emergency response manual for university museums, were developed and published. Both remain international standards.

Funded by sources including the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology, and the Bay Paul, Kress, Stockman, Gutmann, and Getty Foundations, investigations conducted in the lab include:

  • characterization tests for objects of art and archaeology;
  • testing of pesticide residues on museum objects;
  • new protocols for ceramic care;
  • integrated pest management systems; and
  • conservation science curriculum development.