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NCPTT’s Materials Research Program focuses on understanding how cultural materials deteriorate with time and developing new methods to preserve these materials.


New FTIR Microscope

New FTIR Microscope

New FTIR Microscope

Dr. Catherine Situma. Photo by: Jason Church

A new Perkin Elmer Fourier Transform Infra-Red (FTIR) spectrometric microscope was installed in the NCPTT research labs on November 27. The instrument will allow researchers to map chemicals on the surface of cultural materials. This can be used to track chemical changes of organic treatments to small metal or stone surfaces over time. The instrument will be used immediately in conjunction with the evaluation of stone consolidation and cleaning treatment recommendations for the Arsenal and Macombe monuments in Historic Congressional Cemetery. NCPTT staff, including Jason Church, Catherine Situma, and Mary Striegel, have received applications training on the newly installed microscope.

NCA Interagency Agreement

The Department of Veteran Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, has entered into a new interagency agreement with NCPTT to continue the evaluation of commercially available cleaners for use on federally-issued headstones. The agreement provides NCPTT with $34,335 in funds to apply to this research over a two-year period. The follow-up study will continue to monitor biological regrowth at two national cemeteries.

Training and Outreach

TEL Courses

TEL Courses

TEL Courses

Photo by: NPS

Two NPS TEL courses were offered by NCPTT in January. Instructors Mary Striegel and Jason Church team taught the course, “Essentials in Cemetery Monument Care,” offered on Jan 17. This two-hour course focused on proper cleaning and resetting issues and was designed for maintenance staff and personnel responsible for the care of historic cemeteries; cultural resource specialists who oversee the care of stone monuments, including grave markers and commemorative monuments; archeologists assigned the responsibility for care and maintenance of grave sites or cemeteries. The course was attended by at least 26 NPS employees. A new TEL course offering, “Basics in Iron Fencing Care,” was taught by Jason Church on Jan 18. This one-hour course emphasized sound maintenance techniques for iron fencing and exterior iron elements. The course addressed documentation, cleaning, simple repairs and surface treatments. Based on participant evaluations the courses were well received.

Grant Symposium

NCPTT and the New York Conservation Foundation hosted “Progress in Preservation through NCPTT Grants,” sessions I and II at the Eastern Analytical Symposium held November 12, 2007 in Somerset New Jersey. Twelve past PTT grant recipients presented the results of their work at the sessions. The projects presented included topics of materials conservation, architecture, archeology, and landscapes. Dr. Mary Striegel co-chaired the sessions and presented on the NCPTT PTT Grants program.

Cemetery Training

Jason Church conducted site visits in preparation for the 2008 Cemetery Monument Conservation Basics Course to be held in Morris, Ill. On May 17, and the 2008 Cemetery Monument Conservation Workshop to be held in New London, Conn. in Oct 7-9. The Basics course is being organized in conjunction with the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office. The Workshop partners include the City of New London. This year’s Cemetery Monument Conservation Workshop will focus extensively on slate and brownstone monuments.


NCPTT interns Stace Miller and Bilal Khurshid were acknowledged for their research efforts and professional presentations at NSU’s Annual College of Science and Technology banquet. Miller and Khurshid received awards for their American Chemical Society (ACS) presentations. Miller also received the Outstanding ACS student chapter and the 2008 Outstanding Math Major awards. In addition, Stace was the beneficiary of a research grant awarded to NCPTT by NSU’s research council, which will fund her attendance at the AIC annual meeting and presentation of her paper entitled “A comparative cleaning study for fragile marble monuments after pretreatment with Hydroxylating Conversion Treatment (HCT).” NCPTT intern Anna Johnson, Louisiana School for Math, Sciences and the Arts junior, placed first in the regional science competition for her work using portable X-ray Fluorescence to study the effects of labeling methods on elemental analysis of archeological pottery.

The Materials Research Program will host two interns this summer, Ms. Molly McGath and Ms. Catherine Arceneaux. McGath will be receiving a Master’s in Chemistry from the University of Arizona in May and will then be transferring to the Heritage Conservation Science PhD. program within the Materials Science Department at the University of Arizona. McGath’s main tasks will be to assist Catherine Situma in the comparative study of pollution deposition to cleaned marble and comparative testing of water repellents for brick and stone masonry. Arceneaux is an undergraduate at the Savannah College of Art and Design majoring in historic preservation. Arceneaux’s main tasks will be to assist Jason Church in developing a project on graffiti removal from masonry. This project will include field testing of graffiti removal techniques and the production of an instructional video.

The NPS Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program has awarded a position to NCPTT for the Summer of 2008. The intern will assist in the project, “Oral Traditions: Recording Fading Aspects of Traditional African American Burial Practices.” In addition to research, the intern will attend the annual career workshop hosted by the NPS and the Student Conservation Association.


NCPTT provided consultation to Arlington National Cemetery regarding maintenance and repair of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Jason Church and Mary Striegel prepared a written report offering guidance regarding specifications for cyclic maintenance to the Tomb, including monitoring of major cracks, replacement of previous repairs, cleaning and treatment.

Hurricane Recovery

Hurricane Recovery

Photo by: Jason Church

Jason Church and Sean Clifford assisted the WASO Historic Preservation Grants Program. The two NCPTT staff members spent a day in New Orleans, LA and a day along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While there they photographed house projects that have been funded by NPS grants. In addition to taking photographs of the homes and their owners the team interviewed many of the owners about their experiences restoring the homes. Sean Clifford is working further with the WASO Grants office to develop a web site featuring the house projects and the pictures taken.

Jason Church

Jason Church

Consultation at Louisiana State Exhibit Museum. Photo by: NPS

NCPTT offered technical assistance to the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, Louisiana on November 5, 2007. The museum expressed concern about the condition of several archeological copper objects associated with the Gahagan burials which were excavated in the 1930s. The objects included a pair of long-nosed god masks, a copper hand effigy and copper/wood ear ornaments. NCPTT staff, including Mary Striegel, David Morgan, and Jason Church, evaluated the chemical makeup of the objects using a portable X-ray Fluorescence Analyzer. They offered recommendations about display conditions and referrals to conservators who may assist the museum.

The Joint Readiness Training Center and Ft. Polk hosted their first Heritage Day Celebration on November 3at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Family members and their descendents who owned the land before the military acquired it in 1941 were invited to the event. Over four hundred participants attended the one day event. Jason Church was on hand to speak to the participants about caring for the more than a dozen family cemeteries that still remain on the military base.


Mary Striegel represented the National Park Service at the American Institute for Conservation Fall Board Meeting and Internal Advisory Group Meeting held Nov 7-10. Striegel is responsible for coordinating officers from ten specialty groups within the organization. Additionally, she participated in a strategic planning meeting for AIC.

The University of Cincinnati, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, invited Mary Striegel to speak on the topic of air pollution and cultural resources to an audience of more than 30 graduate students held November 30. Striegel presented a 55 minute presentation that focused on three of NCPTT’s recent research projects. One outcome of this presentation was a visit on March 27 to NCPTT by Dr. Mingming Lu and Dr. Tim Keener to explore possible future partnerships.

Jason Church was part of a session on cemetery preservation planning and maintenance as part of Saving Places 2008, Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s Eleventh annual historic preservation conference, held February 6-8. More than 40 participants learned about surveying and documentation, project planning, and conservation of wooden gravemarkers. Other presenters at this session included Ron Anthony and Amy Guthrie.

In light of the growing variety of media, from electronic records and image recordings to papers, photographs, and books, that are cared for by libraries, Mary Striegel was invited to presented a 45 minute presentation to the 2008 Louisiana Library Assocation Annual meeting on March 6, in Shreveport Louisiana. The presentation, entitled “Protecting and Preserving Louisiana’s historic Legacy: The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training – An Overview,” focused on advances in book, paper, photograph, electronic media, and moving image preservation resulting from NCPTT’s grants and projects. Striegel highlighted eight grant and projects covering topics for materials preservation to disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

NCPTT was represented at the Northwestern State University 21st Annual Research Day on March 20 by five staff members or associates. Presentations included the following:

  • “The Effects of Labeling Methods on the Elemental Analysis of Artifacts” by Anna Johnson, (an LSMSA Junior in High School)
  • “Identifying Stone Commonly Found in Cemeteries” by Caleb Johnson
  • “A comparative cleaning study for fragile marble monuments after pretreatment with Hydroxylating Conversion Treatment (HCT)” by Stace Miller
  • “Comparative Study of Commercially Available Cleaners for Use on Federally Issued Headstones” by Jason Church
  • “Effectiveness of Consolidants to withstand Air Pollution” by Catherine Situma.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119