Organized by the GCI, the Smithsonian Institution, the Institute of Archaeology of University College, London, and Parks Canada, the symposium "Materials Issues in Art and Archaeology V" represented the fifth time materials scientists specializing in art preservation and archaeological materials characterization have met under the banner of the Materials Research Society. Held at the Society's December 1996 meeting in Boston, the symposium presented a diversity of disciplines, materials, technologies, and conservation challenges. Speakers came from Canada, India, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The 60 papers included a number on metallurgy, among them examinations of early European artillery, ancient medical instruments, the technology of historical lead and silver production, bronze Punic coins, metal nails, and a gold hoard from the late Roman/early Byzantine period in Jordan. The two papers judged to be the best graduate research involved metallurgy: one discussed the production of crucible steel during the 9th and early 10th centuries; the other investigated bronze mirrors from south India.
The ancient and historical metallurgy session was followed by two sessions—one covering natural and artificial glasses, the other on ceramics. These sessions included papers on the long-distance obsidian trade in Indonesia, opaque Renaissance glass, and the production of ceramics in Mexico, China, Turkey, Malaysia, and Sardinia.
Prevalent this year among the studies of analytical techniques applied to historic materials were papers that discussed neutron activation analysis on Chinese porcelains, a portable mid-IR spectrophotometer to help identify museum plastics in a host of regional museum locations, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry on archaeomaterials, proton induced X-ray emission spectroscopy, and scanning Auger spectroscopy.