Keeping a Promise to the Past

Archaeology and Artifact Conservation at Historic St. Mary’s City


Historic St. Mary’s City takes very seriously its responsibility for the stewardship of Maryland’s first capital. We strive to protect all known sites by limiting disturbance by humans or by nature. And as much as is possible, we practice preservation archaeology where we only excavate what is needed to answer research questions. Another very important aspect of our stewardship is maintaining the extensive collection of materials previously excavated from the various sites in the National Historic Landmark over the past nearly forty years. Many artifacts are relatively stable and can be maintained through controlling the storage environment and using archival quality materials to house the objects.


However, many artifacts are discovered in a condition of active decay and it is our responsibility to stabilize these objects for future study. With the assistance of grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we have embarked on the path of increasing the level of care for these irreplaceable treasures of early Maryland, first by surveying the collections to set priorities, then by actually treating the most at-risk objects. These pages contain case studies of some of the conservation processes and explain how artifact conservation widens and deepens our understanding of the past and keeps the promise of maintaining these artifacts so they can be asked new questions by scholars yet to be born.


Dig deeper into the results of the conservation surveys of archaeological artifacts undertaken by HSMC with grant assistance from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Planning to Preserve the Past for the Future – 2003 Survey

Planning to Preserve the Past for the Future – 2006 Survey