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Subject: Radioactive graphite bricks

Radioactive graphite bricks

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Wednesday, May 19, 1999
Janet Hughes < [at] nma__gov__au> writes

>Do others on Cons DistList have any experiences in treating
>artefacts where future scientific values need to be considered in
>developing conservation management plans?

Future scientific values should always be weighed when assessing a
treatment protocol.  The radioactive graphite bricks are a unique
corpus which should be preserved, though not necessarily displayed.

Dr. Robert Organ has mentioned some Roman coins which were
irradiated by strong X-Rays and which became highly radioactive as a
result.  As I recall, he said that they were then sealed in lead and
placed in a safe, where they should remain (he said) for some few
thousand years.

A friend who did his graduate work in chemistry at Princeton
University tells the story of a drawer of violet-colored laboratory
glassware.  During experiments with pitchblende and uranium earlier
in this century samples were left in glassware which became
irradiated and discolored.

The glassware was taken away by a hazmat team and disposed of in
some fashion.  My friend's concern was about the generations of
chemistry students whose work at the bench brought their organs of
reproduction against the drawer.

Our work brings us into contact with many toxins.  It may be
radiation, or orpiment (arsenic), or arsenic (on taxidermy
specimens), mercury based pigments, lead, bugs, mold, etc.

Bugs and mold should be removed, but the rest should be preserved,
though handled with all due respect.

I quite agree with Janet Hughes that Antarctic scientific artifacts
should be left in-situ.

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Laboratory
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, OR  97217
503-735-3942  (voice/fax)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:89
                  Distributed: Thursday, May 20, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-89-004
Received on Wednesday, 19 May, 1999

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