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Subject: Community involvement in conservation

Community involvement in conservation

From: Steve Henrikson <steve_henrikson>
Date: Thursday, July 8, 1999
Regarding Muriel Ebert-Gomes' request for information about
conservation work involving the community, I have been involved in
such a project at the Alaska State Museum, under the supervision of
staff and contract conservators.  Perhaps our project is on a
smaller scale than is intended by Ms. Ebert-Gomes; however, it is an
example of what may be accomplished.

Several residents of Juneau, Alaska, have been trained to clean
waterlogged baskets recovered from local "wet sites".  Discovery of
the baskets was unexpected, as the result of erosion, and time was
not available to raise funds to hire contract conservators to carry
out the entire treatment.  Our staff conservator is the only
conservator in Alaska, is on call throughout the state, and could
only commit to the project part-time. Transfer of the basketry
out-of-state for treatment was not practical given the fragility of
the pieces.  As a result, we decided to "farm out" the laborious
cleaning of the baskets to trained volunteers from the community.
Under the close supervision by museum staff, volunteers have cleaned
the four Native Alaskan baskets, which have ranged in age from 4,000
to 5,500 year old. We have been lucky to have had the participation
of some contemporary Alaska Native weavers in the project.

The baskets have been shipped to the museum in encased by the
surrounding sediments, and in some cases, the removal and cleaning
of a single basket has taken the volunteers up to 2 months.  They
have done an outstanding job, freeing up our staff conservator to
deal with the technical aspects of the PEG/freeze drying portion of
the treatment. Perhaps the most important part of the volunteers'
training involved recognizing "when to stop" work to consult with
museum staff.  All decisions that came up concerning the cleaning
were left to the staff. The volunteers stayed in close contact with
the staff as the basket fragments were excavated from the surround
mud in the lab.

This is obviously not the kind of project that would normally
involve large numbers of community members.  However, it shows that
interested non-specialists can assist in certain kinds of treatments
(or components of treatments) with adequate supervision.

On request, I can supply further information about this project by

Steve Henrikson
Curator of Collections
Alaska State Museum
395 Whittier Street
Juneau AK 99801-1718

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:7
                   Distributed: Monday, July 12, 1999
                        Message Id: cdl-13-7-005
Received on Thursday, 8 July, 1999

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