ASOR 2014 Annual Meeting – Conservation Recap!

Conference recap by Carrie Roberts, Conservator
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

This November I had the opportunity to present a paper at the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) Annual Meeting. And, lucky me, it was held in San Diego this past year. As a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the four-day visit to Southern California was a welcome break from the frigid late fall temperatures of Southern Michigan. It was also a great experience for me professionally, since it was my first Near Eastern Archaeology conference, not to mention my first major conference outside the conservation field.

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The ASOR annual meeting is built from an amazing variety of hour-and-a-half-long sessions, with 32 ASOR-sponsored sessions, 33 member-sponsored sessions, plus workshops. There were approximately 500 (!) papers to choose from over the course of four days – a veritable feast of research and new information.

Most of the sessions were topically very specific, and organized by region, site, and/or date (Kush and the Ancient Near East after 1000 is a good example). But some sessions focused on heritage preservation and technical research themes. Among these was the session in which I presented, Pigments, Paints and Polychromies in the Ancient Near Eastern Context, which was chaired by Conservator Laura D’Alessandro and Archaeologist Alexander Nagel. This session featured papers discussing technical imaging and other analytical approaches to identifying preparation layers, pigments and binding media on everything from wood to wall paintings.  These were fantastic talks, and the session was possible thanks to the member-sponsored session option provided by ASOR, which allows members to propose and organize sessions on current topics in the field. My talk on Graeco-Roman Egyptian pigments will (eventually) be featured on the ASOR YouTube channel.

In addition to the Polychromies session I attended a conservation session organized by Conservators Suzanne Davis & LeeAnn Barnes Gordon: Conservation and Site Preservation in the Near East. This was the third in a four-year series of sessions chaired by Suzanne and LeeAnn, and this year it featured talks about archaeological conservation in Turkey, Jordan, and Israel , as well as two ongoing conservation training initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That afternoon I attended Cultural Heritage Management: Methods, Practices, and Case Studies, a session chaired by Katharyn Hanson, who works for the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in Erbil. It was fascinating to learn about the unique challenges faced by those who work to preserve artifacts, monuments, and sites in these parts of the world. These are discussions that (I think) conservators should push to be a part of, and attending conferences outside our immediate field is one way to do that.

Suzanne Davis and I made sure to check out as much as we could of San Diego’s many cultural offerings, including a visit to the Museum of Man at Balboa Park, downtown’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, and Coronado Island – where we witnessed a breathtaking west coast sunset. It was a blast.

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There are many great resources captured during the annual meeting on ASOR’s You Tube channel – be sure to check it out! https://www.youtube.com/user/ASORTV

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