Department of Conservation and Materials Science at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London—1998 Conservation and Heritage Management Award

Award Citation:

The Department of Conservation at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, is the 1998 recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America's Conservation and Heritage Management Award. This is a newly instituted award to recognize exceptional achievement in the areas of archaeological conservation, conservation science, heritage management, or education and public awareness of archaeological conservation through teaching, lecturing, exhibitions, and publications.

When the Institute of Archaeology was formally opened in 1937, the rudiments of a conservation program were already in place. Ione Gedye was hired on a part-time basis to mend pots and talk to students about what she was doing and why. Slowly her informal lectures developed into courses and archaeology students came to learn the theory behind treatment as well as to receive practical experience in the treatment of artifacts. Gradually, conservation laboratories were properly equipped. After World War II, the program began to attract students specifically studying conservation and the Department of Conservation came into its own. Initially, the course was a one-year certificate program. Later it became a two-year course, then a three-year course. Finally, in the 1970s, the three-year course was turned into a degree course.

Over the past 60 years, the Institute's Conservation program has been unique in devoting itself exclusively to the training of archaeological conservators. Coming from many different countries, its graduates have been instrumental in establishing and practicing conservation on excavations around the world, and caring for some of the world's most important cultural heritage. In addition, many graduates hold positions in museums internationally and have been directly responsible for establishing conservation in these institutions. Some have assumed responsibilities in museum administrations where they have successfully advocated the importance of conservation and collections care in the museum's daily activities. Others have gone on to establish training programs that have carried on the Institute's tradition of training archaeological conservators.

In addition to training conservators, the Department of Conservation has continued its early practice of providing archaeology students (and for the last ten years, museum studies students) with a basic course in the principles and theory of archaeological conservation. Over the years, this has served to provide a common ground for conservators, archaeologists, and museum curators, facilitating communication and understanding that has resulted in the better long-term care of our cultural heritage.

It can be argued that in its 60 years of training archaeological conservators, the Department of Conservation of the Institute of Archaeology has been largely responsible for defining the discipline of archaeological conservation and determining its direction. In recognition of this achievement, the Archaeological Institute of America is proud to present this award.

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