Mary Coughlin

Mary Coughlin
Deputy Director, Corcoran; Associate Professor and Head of Museum Studies Online Certificate
2142 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052
[email protected]


Professor Coughlin has an interest in the conservation challenges of contemporary museum collections, particularly with respect to plastic. Before coming to GW full time, she worked for five years in the Objects Conservation Laboratory of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History where she conserved objects as diverse as FDR’s leg braces and Star War’s C-3PO and R2-D2.


Current Research

Professor Coughlin was awarded a Columbian College Facilitating Fund to investigate the potential use of chlorine indicator strips to detect off-gassing poly (vinyl chloride) plastics in museum collections at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute.



  • Guest Editor for Collection Care Special issue of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Volume 56, Issue 2, 2017
  • Editor for 11 chapters in the upcoming 600 page volume Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage. Publication anticipated fall 2017
  • Author of “Storage at a Glance: Plastics” for the upcoming book Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage. Publication anticipated fall 2017
  • Mary Coughlin and Shari Stout. “The Increase and Diffusion of Collections Care Knowledge: a Partnership” chapter in the book Museum Collections Management volume of the series “Innovative Approaches for Museums” 2015
  • “Plastics” Condition Reporting Chapter in the Southeast Registrar Association’s Basic Reporting Manual. 2015
  • “Bon Appétit? Plastics in Julia Child’s Kitchen” for the American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works Annual Conference. 2014
  • Mary Coughlin, Paula Johnson and Lauren Andersen (GW student) “Julia Child’s Kitchen as a Conservation Classroom” for postprints of “Playing to the Galleries and Engaging New Audiences: the public face of conservation” 2013
  • “Monitoring Acidic Off-gassing of Plastics”, Conserve-O-Gram, National Park Service. 2012
  • “Museum Collections Management and Care Online Graduate Certificate Program” published in spring 2010 in Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals
  • Jia-sun Tsang, Odile Madden, Mary Coughlin, Anthony Maiorana, Judy Watson, Nicole C. Little and Robert J. Speakman “Degradation of ‘Lumarith’ Cellulose Acetate: Examination and Chemical Analysis of a Salesman’s Sample Kit”. Studies in Conservation, 2009.
  • Mary Coughlin and Ann Seeger “You Collected What?! The Risks and Rewards of Acquiring Cellulose Nitrate” in Plastics: Looking at the Future & Learning from the Past. 2008.
  • “C-3PO: Preservation of a Protocol Droid”, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works conference poster, 2006



BA Historic Preservation, Mary Washington College (Magna Cum Laude & Phi Beta Kappa)
MS Art Conservation, Winterthur/University of Delaware


Professional Organizations

  • American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)
    • Professional Associate (peer reviewed membership) 2016-present
    • Chair, AIC Collection Care Network, 2017-present
    • Vice Chair, AIC Collection Care Network, 2016-2017
    • Editor, AIC Collection Care Network, 2015-2016
    • AIC Sustainability Committee Board, 2011-2014
  • Washington Conservation Guild
    • Board of Directors, 2005-2010