Archaeological Conservation

The miraculously well-preserved condition of objects from underwater sites is more apparent than real. During lengthy immersion, artifacts react chemically with the water and sediments surrounding them. Sudden removal from their watery environment and exposure to air can set off a chain of chemical and physical reactions in the objects that can lead to their destruction. To preserve these unique and fragile objects, it is essential to have the conservators and laboratory facilities available to preserve the artifacts.

Conservation group images Swift and ShipsPhotos courtesy Projecto HMS Swift and Ships of Discovery

Conservators are specialists who work with archaeologists to preserve artifacts for study and display. The conservation of objects takes much longer than their actual excavation, and the long-term care of a collection of excavated objects is expensive and time-consuming. Unless proper facilities and resources are available, it is often best to leave objects in their underwater environment. Conservators also work with archaeologists and site managers to monitor the condition of sites and artifacts left in place to preserve them for future generations.

There are organizations worldwide that have the expertise and specialists to conserve these important cultural finds. There is also a wealth of information, technical briefs, guides, and bibliographies available to help you learn more about conservation and this essential partner in the preservation of our shared underwater cultural heritage. Read on to learn more about it.