Conservation Services

The mission of the Warren Lasch Conservation Center (WLCC) is to advance knowledge and best practice in the analysis, conservation and restoration of cultural heritage through innovative research programs, education and training. The WLCC values an integrated approach where conservation practice, archaeology and materials science work together to solve conservation challenges. Our experience is based on years of work dedicated to the analysis, preservation and stabilization of the H.L Hunley submarine (1864) and its diverse collection of artifacts. Experience gained by our team working on this complex conservation project is a valuable resource that has been shared with the worldwide scientific community.  Results of the research are being further adapted and applied to other conservation projects, opening up new avenues of research and collaboration.

All conservation activities at the WLCC are performed in accordance with the AIC’s Code of Ethics and can be classified into four categories:

Examination and Documentation is the foundation for any treatment plan. Before treatment can begin, conservators record, both in writing and with various image-recording techniques, the current condition of the material to better understand its method of fabrication, its current condition and possible cause of deterioration. Although conservators can gather considerable information during visual examination and documentation, more sophisticated investigation techniques may be required. Examples of scientific techniques available at the WLCC include digital x‐radiography, 3-D scanning, Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy.

Treatment includes techniques implemented by conservators to directly intervene with the object to enhance its stability, appearance and long-term preservation. Examples of treatments undertaken at the WLCC include stabilization, cleaning, repair and restoration. Stabilization may include treatments such as chloride extraction from archaeological or historical metal artifacts and freeze drying of waterlogged organic materials. Cleaning treatments may include mechanical, micro-abrasion, chemical or electrochemical techniques, depending on the object and the type of deterioration. Restoration often includes techniques, such as repair and reconstruction, to bring an object back to a known or assumed former condition, most commonly for interpretive purposes.

Preventive Conservation is the management of environmental conditions to slow down deterioration processes and reduce or eliminate the need for interventive treatment. Conservators at the WLCC implement specific procedures and policies to control environmental variables such as relative humidity, temperature, oxygen and light levels. Preventive conservation also includes recommending appropriate conditions for exhibition and loan of cultural property, managing access and handling, prescribing suitable procedures for storage and display, packing and transport, implementing an integrated pest management plan, and strengthening emergency preparedness guidelines and response.

Education and Public Outreach is a priority at the WLCC.  Conservators are regularly involved in teaching and outreach activities including lectures, presentations and workshops for professional groups and the general public. The laboratory actively participates in supervising and mentoring internships for conservation students and professionals.  Teaching capabilities of WLCC conservators range from theoretical principles and ethics of conservation to specific case studies, techniques and methodologies.