Saturday, June 26, 2010

Conservation in the Field

Being in the field poses many challenges for the conservator. Routine materials may not be available, environmental conditions may be radically different than museum standards, and time is limited to several weeks a year. 

We've learned a technique for deionizing water, which is necessary in many cases for the desalination of pottery and other conservation treatments. There are large amounts of salts in the burial environment, which solubilize and migrate into the objects. With changes in relative humidity after excavation, these salts can effloresce on the surface of an object and potentially cause considerable damage. Desalinating removes these salts from the fabric of the object and at Gordion is carried out on ceramics and metals.

In order to carry out the desalination, a source of deionized water is needed. The tap water here has high conductivity, and must be treated to remove minerals prior to use in desalination. This is done using a deionizing column onsite. 

Emily pours water from the tap into the deionizing setup.
Water is then forced through the deionizing column shown above. 

Elizabeth checks the conductivity of the water after deionization. 

Obtaining supplies can also be a challenge and it is often necessary to find creative materials for use in conservation treatments. We ventured out with Jessie in Ankara to find acetone when we first arrived in Turkey. It was an interesting opportunity to learn about the differences of buying supplies in a foreign country and the ways in which chemical suppliers and safety standards might vary. 

Not on the the list, but tempting. 

Adapting to life in rural Turkey is another interesting part of working in the field. We have been working on our Turkish, and enjoying the local cuisine. One of the first phrases we've learned in Turkish is "elektrik yok", which means no electricity. Power outages are a daily occurrence here, but everyone makes the best of it. A popular way to spend the time is in the newly fabricated "Gordirondack" chairs, made for us by John Hinchman and friends. 


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