Conservation Projects

During the year, conservators actively participate in multiple ongoing Museum initiatives that involve a wide range of collections. Projects may focus on loan and Museum exhibit-related conservation documentation and treatment of objects or efforts that improve safe access to collections for use in teaching and research.


Historical Maps, Architectural Drawings, & Archaeological Site Plans

The Peabody Museum received a 2009 Conservation Project Support Grant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to improve access, preservation and storage of its large holding of historical maps, architectural drawings, archaeological site plans and related fieldwork documents. The project began in Spring 2009 and concluded in Spring 2011. The project addressed at its conclusion over 6,900 individual oversized documents previously not physically accessible due to their rolled or folded state or other condition issues. The project’s planning and consultative phase was followed by a lengthy implementation period to visually document, condition assess, clean, humidify, flatten, stabilize/repair, and rehouse the items. All of these paper-based documents are now easily accessible to the University and the general public for study, and safely available for future digitization as needed.

Wall of Casts

Old storage conditions at the Peabody Museum.

Mesoamerican Plaster Casts: Preservation & Rehousing Project 

In July 2007, the Museum initiated a major preservation project to document, condition-assess, clean, and stabilize more than seven hundred and fifty of the plaster casts that comprise sculptural art and hieroglyphic writing facsimiles from monuments and buildings at more than twenty-five archaeological sites in Mesoamerica.

Two small Paper moulds

Paper mould made in 1880 of a carved stone, Uxmal, Mexico (above), and a paper mould made in 1881 of a wood beam, Kabah, Mexico (below).

Paper Moulds of Maya Monuments

The paper moulds housed in the Peabody Museum were originally produced in situ at Maya archaeological sites in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras during the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries. Sites represented include Yaxchilan, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Kabah, Xcalumkin, Quirigua, Uaxactun, Piedras Negras and Copan. The paper moulds vary in size from 15 cm x 20 cm to over 1.5 meters x 2.5 meters x 15 cm in depth.

Vessel after reconstruction

Ceramic Vessel from Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala

The ceramic vessel, pictured left—one of a pair excavated from Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala— is constructed from very thin orange ware and decorated with painted stucco. Although the stucco is fragmentary, enough of the pattern remained to determine a figural decoration and a section featuring a warrior in full costume with feather embellishments.

Guatemala ceramic vessel after reconstruction.

 Gorilla skeleton

Osteological Teaching Collection: Primate Stabilization Project

Teaching collections at the Peabody are actively used by students and faculty and require regular maintenance. This past year, Conservation and Osteology stabilized and rehoused the primate skeleton collection, numbering about 20 intact skeletons.

Gorilla skeleton after conservation treatment.

 letter after opening

Spanish letter c. 1800 after opening.

Opening an Old & Forgotten Spanish Letter

A letter dating from c. 1800 was recently found inside a medicine bag at the Peabody Museum. Part of a group of items designated “Yankton medicine bag and contents,” donated to the Peabody Museum by Alice Fletcher in 1882.

Technical Projects

Conservators collaborate with curators, professors, students, researchers, and community members to exchange information about specific objects and collections. These studies often require more extensive documentation and technical analysis.

 Colonial Inka painting

Colonial Painting of Manco Capac.

Inka Figurines

There were seven small polychrome wood figurines, probably part of a full set of Inka royal lineage carvings, depicting male and female members of the Inka royal lineage. This website discusses the history and significance; the results of the material analysis; and the conservation issues of these unique objects.



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