ASM’s state-of-the-art conservation lab and preservation program attracts students from all over the world each year. The ASM Preservation Division, under the leadership of Dr. Nancy Odegaard (left), provides dynamic research opportunities and real-world educational experiences for a fleet of interns, visiting scholars, undergraduate and graduate students, and volunteers. Pictured here are two of the lab's recent interns, Betsy Burr and Nicole Peters, working together to treat an unstable ceramic vessel.

Arizona State Museum’s conservation laboratory, established in the late 1970s, was the first, and remains the only, museum conservation laboratory in the state dedicated to the preservation of, and technical research on, anthropological collections.

A center of research and professional training, ASM’s conservation lab is where science and culture connect. It is a shining example of the type of interdisciplinary research that is possible at the University of Arizona (UA). ASM conservators collaborate with museum colleagues, faculty in other UA units (e.g., the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, American Indian Studies, the School of Anthropology, the Department of Chemistry, the Drachman Institute, the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and University Spectroscopy and Imaging Facilities), as well as colleagues across the nation and around the globe.

Since 1983, the state-of-the-art facility has been under the direction of conservator and professor Nancy Odegaard, Ph.D. Dr. Odegaard and her team conduct and facilitate research that has transformed the discipline of object conservation through the use of chemistry, engineering, scientific method, and anthropological principles. Dr. Odegaard’s research leadership has resulted in the development of internationally recognized educational curricula for the care and handling of archaeological and ethnographic collections, a textbook on chemical characterization tests for objects of art and archaeology, and the first emergency response manual for university museums. Ground-breaking research has been shared with the world through books, chapters, journal articles, videos, presentations, and posters. Today, the lab continues to provide preventive and interventive conservation of ASM's vast collections, serves the public through workshops and queries, instructs scores of conservation students, and continues to conduct cutting-edge research, currently in areas such as nano-particle technology, imaging technology, and frozen technology.

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ASM conservators also conduct hands-on preservation work in the field, teach in classroom settings, and lecture extensively. There is a long list of professional researchers, students, and community volunteers eager to participate in the lab’s work.

 The lab’s national funding sources have included:

  • the Bay Paul, Kress, Stockman, Gutmann, and Getty Foundations

  • the National Science Foundation

  • the National Endowment for the Humanities

  • the National Endowment for the Arts

  • the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology

  • the Institute of Museum and Library Services

  • the National Park Service

Research conducted in the lab includes:

  • testing and removal of pesticide residues

  • protocols for ceramic conservation and care in storage

  • protocols for analysis, cleaning, stabilization, and exhibition of basketry

  • conservation science curriculum

  • protocols for emergency preparedness and recovery in museums

  • protocols for the care of human remains in academic institutions

Dr. Nancy Odegaard, Ph.D.
Conservator and Head of Preservation
Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, Anthropology, and American Indian Studies
See Dr. Odegaard's Profile

Gina Watkinson
Conservation Laboratory Manager
Arizona State Museum / University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210026
Tucson, AZ  85721-0026

Extras: Learn more about ASM Conservation and get some Expert Advice

About the Conservation Lab Tutorials Professional Presentations Just for Fun
ASM Cares for National Treasures 
(2 min 31 sec)

Appropriate Handling of Museum Collections
(3 min 30 sec)

Ice Cold: Solid Carbon Dioxide Cleaning
(about 90 min)

Behind-the-scenes look at the mounting of the
"Woven Through Time" exhibit
 (1 min 18 sec)

Conservation at ASM 
(8 min 47 sec)

Basketry Cleaning
(4 min 15 sec)

  Lucy Debuting in Nationwide Tour
(about 3 min)
Nancy Odegaard's National Leadership 
(5 min 19 sec)
Basket Mounting
(5 min 30 sec)

The Mammoth Bone Bed (video, 4 min 12 sec)

Listen to a podcast about the ASM mammoth (8 min 33 sec)

Video Tour of the Conservation Lab 
(2 min,30 sec)

Care and Curation of Basketry Presentation
(about 1 hour 15 min)


Listen to a 2009 interview with Dr. Odegaard, 
in which she discusses 
the work of the ASM
Conservation Lab (9 min 40 sec)

Care and Curation of Basketry Overview
(30 sec)
Time lapse video of a ceramic vessel reconstruction (3 min 21 sec)

Care of Navajo Textiles (pdf)

The Largest Basket (and one of the largest) in the ASM Collection (5 min 5 sec)

Labeling Objects Presentation
(about 1 hour)


Labeling Objects Tutorial
(about 5 min)


Materials for Storage and Soft Packing Presentation
(about 1 hour 15 min)


Soft Storage: Muslin (about 4 min)


Soft Storage: Polyethylene Foam (about 4 min)

  Soft Storage: Polystyrene (about 2 min)