Naval History and Heritage Command/Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory

Naval History and Heritage Command/Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory

U.S. citizens, student visas, and permanent residents are all eligible to apply for this lab!

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (NHHC UAB), located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the management, research, preservation, and interpretation of the US Navy’s sunken military craft.

The Navy oversees one of the largest collections of submerged cultural resources, which includes over 17,000+ historic shipwreck and aircraft wrecks dispersed globally. Therefore, UAB was established to manage these sites and advise the NHHC and the Department of the Navy on all matters related to the science of underwater archaeology and historic preservation as it pertains to military craft wreck sites.

The Branch manages the NHHC’s Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory, which serves as a multifunction laboratory where US Navy’s marine artifacts are treated for long-term preservation, documented and analyzed by staff, made available to scholars for academic study, and presented to the public through scheduled tours. In addition to the Laboratory, UAB supports GIS and remote sensing data analysis projects of sunken military craft. Part of the Branch’s mission is also to locate and document sunken military craft, and many types of mapping systems are utilized to achieve this objective.

The Laboratory also serves as a permanent curatorial facility for US Navy’s submerged material culture, adhering to federal and professional standards for historic preservation. Currently, the laboratory is directly responsible for over 13,500 artifacts originating from sunken military craft. Through the artifact loan program, over 11,000 artifacts are on short- and long-term loans to museums and academic institutions throughout the world for professional exhibit and display of US Navy’s maritime culture. The remaining 2,500 artifacts are curated in the laboratory, where a number of them are receiving conservation treatment.

Conservation is an integral component of any underwater archaeology program. Upon removal from the underwater environment, artifacts are in immediate danger due to the deteriorating effects of increased oxygen, temperature, light, and other atmospheric conditions. While artifacts are undergoing conservation in the laboratory, they are also scientifically analyzed and thoroughly documented to prevent loss of information throughout the stabilization process.

Current research focuses on the effects of various conservation treatments on waterlogged organic and inorganic materials from the 18th and 19th centuries, conservation of complex composite artifacts, in situ preservation analyses, applying conservation treatments, corrosion studies, artifact analysis, 3-D scanning and printing of artifacts, and GIS mapping of sites and artifact distribution.  

Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the work conducted in the lab, UAB considers students seeking degrees in a variety of fields such as, but not limited to, conservation, chemistry, bio-chemistry, material science, environmental studies, maritime archaeology, anthropology, military history, naval architecture, computer science, engineering (particularly aerospace), and geographic information systems.


Agustin Ortiz  (202) 433-9761