The North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) maintains a laboratory adjacent to the main office facility located at Fort Fisher State Historic Site. This laboratory has been in continuous operation since the early 1960s and is staffed by a full-time conservator who oversees the artifact treatment, record maintenance and facility upkeep.
Artifacts recovered from underwater environments are often covered with encrustation, and because of this laboratory conservators are often the first to closely examine recovered artifacts. The laboratory conservators are tasked with the initial identification of incoming artifacts and maintaining documentation that not only records the treatment but the physical characteristics of each artifact. These records are maintained throughout the treatment process, subsequent curation, and eventual loan for public display.
Artifacts retrieved from seawater require special treatment prior to drying. A primary goal of the UAB Preservation Laboratory is to clean and stabilize waterlogged and salt contaminated artifacts. Because of the huge backload of artifacts awaiting conservation, the laboratory only handles artifacts owned by the state as defined in the Abandoned Shipwreck Act (Public Law 100-298) and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (G.S. 70, Article 2). Consultation with the staff conservator is available.