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News Student Blog: Arizona State Museum

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Left: WUDPAC third year graduate fellow Leah Bright in front of newly installed cases in the exhibit "Woven Through Time: American Treasures of Native Basketry and Fiber Art" at the Arizona State Museum where Bright is completing her third year internship. Right: Detail of archaeological painted basketry fragments before exhibition in "Woven Through Time."  Excavated from unknown location, possibly likely the Gila Bend area in Arizona, possibly Hohokam, sedentary period. ASM accession number 1998-215-371. 

​It's hard to imagine I'm more than halfway through my third year in sunny Tucson, Arizona at the Arizona State Museum (ASM), it feels like I've learned and grown enough to fill at least a couple of years!  I've had the privilege of participating in numerous projects over the last six months, but recently the six of us in the conservation lab have been busily examining, documenting, stabilizing, and making mounts for objects in preparation for an exhibition entitled "Woven Through Time: American Treasures of Native Basketry and Fiber Art."  Opening April 8th, the exhibition will display a striking group of woven artifacts and objects from the Southwest, archaeological to contemporary. It it has been both a challenge and a pleasure to examine and create mounts for objects like archaeological painted basketry fragments, 3000 year old wooden figurines, a charred textile made of yucca and asbestos fibers, and intricately woven sandals made of cotton and turkey feathers. Working on the exhibition has not only strengthened my understanding of preventive conservation but has also been a valuable opportunity to learn about the spectacular textiles, basketry, and other woven material traditions in the Southwest.

​Left: Leah Bright joining sherds of an archaeological Sikyatki polychrome jar, excavated from Chevelon in Homol'ovi, an ancient Hopi settlement cluster, in 2006. The jar will go on exhibition in the fall/winter. Right: Demonstrating a solubility meter while teaching the public about archaeological ceramics and soluble salts at a table at Science City, part of the Tucson festival of books. Education and outreach is a major component of work at the conservation lab at ASM. 

I have gained myriad new skills while working on this exhibition, but "Woven Through Time" is not the first exhibit I've been lucky to be a part of. During my first summer work project, I returned to my home state of Alaska to spend the summer with objects conservator Ellen Carrlee at the Alaska State Museum (a different ASM!). I came to the museum during the last summer before it reopened after almost four years of renovations, and I worked with Ellen and two other graduate students to complete as many treatments as possible in small, temporary workspaces with minimal supplies and resources. This summer work project helped me develop resourcefulness and confidence, and taught me how to better balance speed and depth of treatments, and working on "Woven Through Time" has further built on these skills. Before these internships I hadn't quite grasped the importance of conservators in the planning and execution of exhibitions, but now I've realized how our hand skills and knowledge of objects are paramount, as well as the ability to work as a team and be an effective leader. I look forward to future positions in which I can continue collaborating on exhibits and developing these skills.

When considering where to spend my third year, ASM was an alluring place primarily due to the dynamic and exciting conservation lab Dr. Nancy Odegaard, Head of Preservation and objects conservator, has established; the lab is always teeming with amazing conservators and students working on pioneering research and projects. I was drawn in by Nancy's strong leadership and mentorship, and of course the opportunity to work with ASM's stunning collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects. The dry climate in Arizona and the abundance of caves means the incredible preservation of archaeological organic materials is completely unrivaled!

I am so grateful for Nancy and all my coworkers here at ASM; it's inspiring to work everyday with a group of brilliant women. I can't wait to see what the rest of my third year will bring, as long as I can survive the heat of an Arizona summer!

— Leah A. Bright, NEH Graduate Fellow, WUDPAC Class of 2017

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2017 Fellow Leah Bright shares projects from her third-year internship in the conservation lab of the Arizona State Museum.

​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2017 Fellow Leah Bright shares projects from her third-year internship in the conservation lab of the Arizona State Museum.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489