News from the Conservation Lab

Meet Shelley Almburg, microscope repairperson extraordinaire.

Shelley Almburg
Shelley Almburg.

Shelley works for the Microscopy and Image-analysis Lab at the University of Michigan. She is the one and only microscope troubleshooter for the University, traveling from lab to lab with a bag of tools designed to tweak, align, degrease, re-lube, and fix whatever ails microscopes. As a conservator, I use our polarized light microscope quite often, to look at fibers, pigments, salts that might be growing on an excavated pot, you name it. But when the lightbulb in our Olympus BH-2 burned out, did I know the first thing about how to fix it? Nope. Not a clue.

“Make sure not to touch the new bulb,” Shelley told us as she pulled the replacement light from her bag and installed it with the greatest of ease into the microscope’s base. She then proceeded to disassemble the microscope piece by piece, with the deliberateness of a master clock worker inspecting the parts of an intricate, antique timepiece. I realized then that my fear of breaking the scope had prevented me from ever exploring its inner workings, preventing it from ever working properly! It takes some serious knowledge and guts — and maybe a little WD-40 — to take something like this apart and know that you’ll be able to put it together again, and make it better in the process.

Thank you, Shelley!