Nicole Little

Physical Scientist


Phone: 301-238-1243
Fax: 301-238-3709
E-mail Address: LittleN [at]

Museum Conservation Institute
Smithsonian Institution
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746


B.A. University of Missouri - Columbia (2001)
M.A. University of Missouri - Columbia (2005)

Research Specialties and Interests

Nicole’s responsibilities include the chemical characterization of museum objects by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry as well as the identification of crystalline structures by x-ray diffraction.  Although her research has primarily focused on the chemical characterization of archaeological materials (including pottery and obsidian), Nicole has begun utilizing MCI’s new time-of-flight ICP-MS (TOF-ICP-MS) to research environmental issues, including the heavy metal content of commercially available teas. Nicole is also responsible for the anoxic treatment of museum objects associated with MCI’s conservation staff.

Recent Research Activities

  • Identification and quantification of heavy metals in historic bones from Jamestown and St. Mary’s City.
  • Identification of lead oxides in stained marble from Arlington Cemetery by XRD.
  • Argon treatment of objects

Past Research Activities

  • Instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) of pottery from Northwest Belize

Field Work Locations

Northwest Belize, Mid-Atlantic U.S.

Exhibition Projects

Nicole’s research on the quantification of heavy metals in historic bones is currently being showcased in the Natural History Museum exhibit Written in Bone.

Recent Publications

Tsang, Jia-sun, Madden, Odile, Coughlin, Mary, Maiorana, Anthony, Watson, Judy, Little, Nicole C. and Speakman, Robert Jeff 2009. Degradation of 'Lumarith' Cellulose Acetate Examination and Chemical Analysis of a Salesman's Sample Kit. Studies in Conservation, 54(2): 90-105.

Sheppard, Paul R., Ort, Michael H., Anderson, Kirk C., Elson, Mark D., Vazquez-Selem, Lorenzo, Clemens, Angelika W., Little, Nicole C. and Speakman, Robert Jeff 2008. Multiple Dendrochronological Signals Indicate the Eruption of Parícutin Volcano, Michoacán, Mexico. Tree-Ring Research, 64(2): 97-108.

Little, N. C., Scarlett, T. J., Speakman, Robert Jeff, Glascock, Michael D. and Merritt, C. W. 2007. Analysis of historic latter-day saint pottery glazes by laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. In: Glascock, Michael D., Speakman, Robert Jeff and Popelka-Filcoff, R. S., Archaeological Chemistry: Analytical Methods and Archaeological Interpretation. American Chemical Society, pp.447-459.

Little, Nicole C., Kosakowsky, Laura, Speakman, Robert Jeff, Glascock, Michael D. and Lohse, John 2004. Characterization of Maya pottery by INAA and ICP-MS. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 262: 103-110.


Related Links (to projects or collaborations)