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Thursday, May 31 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Architecture + Archaeological Conservation) Digging Deep: The Importance of Collaborations between Architectural Conservators and Archeologists

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Excavating at an archeological site or probing a building can provide opportunities for architectural conservators and archeologists to work together. We do not collaborate as often as we should. This paper examines several projects where either there was collaboration or it was lacking and demonstrates how these two types of conservators examining materials together extracts a better understanding of what has been found. Building archeology is the study of a building. Despite the word archeology, it is not uncommon for Architectural Conservators to forget the archeologist. Removing floorboards for repairs in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City uncovered layers of objects including buttons, bones and tickets hidden in rats’ nests as well as material that had fallen between the floorboards over the course of a hundred and thirty years. Archeologists were a key part of the team retrieving and documenting this material for interpretation. Another type of project that would benefit from more collaboration is cemetery conservation. Often cemetery conservation is limited to repairing, aligning, and resetting markers, ensuring the cemetery looks tidy. But not all cemeteries had neatly placed gravestones surrounded by careful plantings. African American burials were often marked by grave goods or “offerings” placed upon graves. These items could be pottery and shells, as well as everyday objects such as cups, spoons, dolls heads, and clothing. Sandy Ground, a cemetery on the southern tip of Staten Island, was originally the resting place for an early free African American fishing community. It was vandalized in the 1990s. In an effort to restore the cemetery, it was cleaned up and many grave goods that were thought to be trash were lost. Archeologists can also forget that architectural conservators have extensive knowledge of historic building materials. During work on New York City Hall, a brick foundation was uncovered that was thought to be an early eighteenth century foundation. An examination by the architectural conservators found the walls were constructed of pressed brick and the mortar was natural cement, which dated the foundations well into the nineteenth century. On projects where archeologists and architectural conservators have worked together, a greater understanding of the building or site can emerge. An examination of the foundations of Federal Hall in New York City by a team consisting of an architectural conservator and an archeologist quickly dispelled the notion that the foundations were from a seventeenth century structure. An examination of walls discovered in Battery Park during work on the New York City subway system also benefited from a team of archeologists and architectural conservators working together. The excavated walls could not be saved, but the team was able to thoroughly document the techniques and materials used to construct them.

avatar for Mary A. C. Jablonski

Mary A. C. Jablonski

Conservator, Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc.
Mary Jablonski is the president and founder of Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc. She has over 26 years' experience in many aspects of historic conservation. Mary is involved with almost all projects. This helps to insure that a consistent methodology is applied across projects... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom C Marriott Marquis Houston