The Conservation office works with other NMAI offices and with Native people to provide information on and training in conservation. Most of this work is in three areas:
- Collaborative consultations on treatment of NMAI's collections
- Research and identification of pesticides and contaminated collections
- Training in museum conservation practices
The museum's conservators employ a collaborative and integrated approach to conservation, working closely with Native American community members on the documentation, care, treatment and display of the collection. The over 800,000 items in NMAI's collection are repositories of language, social relations, traditional knowledge, science, songs, stories and memories. This information is revealed through dialogue with Native consultants and is then used to inform decisions of conservation treatment and display. Long-term partnerships are established through these dialogues and the spectrum of caretaker broadens to include the most important voice – those to whom these objects belong. For more about these collaborative projects please see the following websites and articles:
- Anchorage Loan Conservation Project. 2011. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.
- Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge
- "The Practical Aspects of Consultation with Communities"
- "Woven by the Grandmothers: Twenty-Four Blankets Travel to the Navajo Nation"
Pesticides and Contaminated Collections
In collaboration with NMAI's Repatriation Office, the Conservation Office identifies pesticides on objects claimed for repatriation if requested by the community. Conservators test in-house for arsenic, mercury, and lead, and perform other types of analysis if requested. The office also tests objects at other times such as when they are requested for loan.
Training in Museum Conservation Practices
The museum's Constituent Outreach Services group and Conservation office work together to provide information on and training in collections care and preventative conservation practices to tribal museums, cultural centers, and preservation projects. Through workshops and technical assistance visits, NMAI conservators present information on a wide range of topics including: storage and exhibition of museum objects, mount-making, moving collections, integrated pest management, and environmental monitoring.
There are also internship and fellowship opportunities available in NMAI's Conservation office.