UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

A graduate conservation training program focusing on the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials


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Class of 2018 Summer & 3rd Year Internships

We’ve just entered the last week of the quarter, with finals week fast approaching.  As the students try to wrap up their MA thesis projects and course work, they are also preparing to head out for summer and 3rd year internships.  Below is a list of all the fantastic sites and institutions they’ll be working at in the upcoming year.

We’re looking forward to hearing all about the amazing work they’ll be undertaking when they are back for their 3rd year presentations and graduation in Spring 2018. We wish them good luck on their internships and safe travels!


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Conservation and Ethnography: Promoting Cultural Heritage in Southern California

Last quarter, UCLA/Getty students took the course “Conservation and Ethnography” (CAEM 222) taught by Prof. Ellen Pearlstein. The goal for the class was to acquaint students with the changing emphasis of conservation, from neutral acts based purely on material properties, to a series of humanistic and scientific decisions that consider the heritage source, its specific communities, the current and future roles for heritage, as well as evolving technical developments for both prevention and treatment. Through the examination and treatment of southern California basketry, students learned about these aspects of conservation as well as focused on the processes and properties of California (and neighboring) states’ native basketry, deterioration mechanisms and conservation treatment methods.

In addition to treating southern California baskets from the collection of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and the Yosemite Museum, students were asked to imagine that in addition to creating their documentation for the next conservator, that they are creating it to assist Cahuilla weavers, ethnobotanists, revivalists, cultural descendants, or museum board and staff members in using their class project basket to answer questions and to promote culture. You can find links to the documentation they produced below.

 

 


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Bright Lights, Big City-ANAGPIC 2017

The annual ANAGPIC conference is about 6 weeks away and UCLA/Getty students are working hard preparing for the conference.  This year the conference is hosted by the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU and Columbia University.  Our students are looking forward to attending the conference and of course exploring New York.

This year we have students presenting in both the formal presentations and the lighting round.  Morgan Burgess and Marci Burton will be presenting their study on a 1st edition  BarbieTM doll, work they completed as part of a directed individual study.  Michaela Paulson will be discussing her MA thesis research that looks at how the color of Kingfisher feathers is effected by light, adhesives and pressure when used in cloisonné style jewelry. We’ve also got 4 lighting round projects on a wide variety of materials and projects.  Make sure to check out the abstracts below to learn more about the presentations and these interesting projects.

Good luck to all those presenting and we hope all the students have a great time at this year’s ANAGPIC Conference and in the Big Apple!


Presentation Abstracts

The Technical Analysis, Study, & Treatment of a First Edition 1959 BarbieTM Doll
Morgan Burgess and Marci Burton
Advisor: Ellen Pearlstein

This study focuses on a privately owned, autographed, first edition (c. 1959) BarbieTM doll made from poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) plastic and stored with contemporary plastic accessories in a contemporary case. Contrary to the more frequently encountered condition that collectors might refer to as “sticky leg syndrome”, where plasticizer migrates from the PVC and deposits on the surface as a tacky liquid, this doll exhibits a bloom of a fugitive, waxy, white solid on the legs from the mid-thighs to the ankles. In addition, the doll was autographed by Ruth Handler, the designer of BarbieTM and a co-founder of the Mattel Corporation. Her signature and the date are now barely legible, as the once sharp lines of ink have migrated within the PVC plastic. The lifetime expectancy of plastics, including PVC materials, can be unpredictable and inconsistent due to a number of polymeric mechanisms that lead to irreversible degradation reactions and component separation.

Multi-spectral imaging and x-radiography were performed on the doll to non-invasively and non-destructively examine the plastic and gain an understanding of the manufacturing procedures. In addition, with collaboration from the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), computed tomography, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, Fourier transform Infrared spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy data were collected on the plastic components of the BarbieTM doll. The results collected from the analysis provided insight into the process of manufacture, material composition and structural integrity of the doll, assisting in determination of the agents of degradation and identification of the waxy bloom compound.

After the removal of the waxy bloom, the (c.1959) BarbieTM, along with her clothing, accessories and case, were all housed with archival materials and kept in a monitored environment to slow the degradation process and prevent another waxy bloom outbreak on the PVC plastic.

The Effects of Adhesives and Pressure on Color in Kingfisher Feathers
Michaela Paulson
Advisor: Ellen Pearlstein

The Chinese tradition of tian-tsui, “dotting with kingfishers”, utilized blue, blue-green, and purple feathers adhered to a metallic background. This technique appears most prevalent as feather mosaics on clothing, palanquins, and cloisonné style jewelry. Through a technical study of kingfisher feather jewelry from the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College and light aging studies and pressure tests completed on mocked up samples of kingfisher feathers adhered to supports, this study evaluates the effects of original and later adhesives and coatings, in addition to effects of mechanical interactions, on the structural colors of the feathers.

Feather specimens from skins of Halcyon smyrnensis, the White-breasted Kingfisher, donated by the US Fish and Wildlife Department, were cut and adhered onto inert quartz plates and subjected to three methods of light aging, with color measurement occurring before and after. These aging methods included museum conditions (UV free), window conditions (UV present), and high intensity UVA conditions, with an additional control group. Adhesive systems tested were those documented as having been used originally or in the conservation of kingfisher featherwork, including: protein glue (isinglass or animal hide), wheat starch paste, methylcellulose, funori, and Paraloid B-72. Characterizing the adhesive used on the Scripps collection items provided supporting technical evidence.

Mechanical disruption of kingfisher feather coloration has been observed as small, straight lines appearing darker blue than the surrounding feather, and which appear to align with mechanically dented areas on the cloisonné jewelry. Such disruptions were replicated on other mock-ups by subjecting them to varying pressure and observing the effect on the color rendering.

Taken together, the results of this study provide insights into kingfisher feather tian-tsui technology, and the effect of adhesive systems and mechanical action on the preservation of these structurally colored feathers.


Lighting Round Presentation Abstracts

The Man in the Ancient Bronze Mirror
Hayley Monroe
Advisors: Professor David Scott and Vanessa Muros

In the spring of 2016 the conservation students at UCLA had the opportunity to work on a collection of ancient Chinese bronze mirrors from Scripps College. The author conserved an example dated from the T’ang period (618-907 CE). During the process of mechanically removing thick areas of burial deposit, an unusual feature emerged on the decorated surface.

The classic T’ang ornamentation is comprised of flowers and birds in flight with flowing ribbons grasped in their beaks, however cleaning gradually revealed a figure of a man, clearly part of the original casting though in a completely different style, quite literally peeking out from behind one of the flowing ribbons.
While portable-XRF analysis so far indicates that the alloy is correct for the period, comparative examples have yet to be found.

With luck and further analysis, the mystery of the man in the mirror can be further illuminated.

Investigation and Treatment of a Carved Wooden “ngoni” from Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum
Mari Hagemeyer
Advisor: Ellen Pearlstein

Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum, a unique institution which brings artifacts to Los Angeles schools for teaching purposes, loaned a Malian ngoni (a type of African lute) to the UCLA/Getty Conservation program for treatment of numerous conservation conditions, including a complex break to the neck of the instrument which was being held together with black duct tape. The object was examined in order to understand both its original construction and its current state, including prior treatments, which may have been carried out by school personnel. Conservation treatment was undertaken on: the complex break to the neck; a second break to a decorative element which was mended with an unknown adhesive; a fatty/waxy spew which was apparent on the wood and skin elements on the body of the instrument; inappropriate stringing with monofilament causing slippage and damage to skin tie elements; the presence of metal tacks used to stabilize these slipping ties; and the presence of insect debris.

International Collaboration for the Creation of a Conservation MA Program in Peru
Lindsay Ocal
Advisor: Ellen Pearlstein

Peru is a country with a wealth of archaeological, ethnographic, and artistic treasures, but no formal graduate education program in conservation. Currently, professional conservators learn the trade through apprenticeships or they must pursue graduate study abroad, mainly in Europe and North America. In order to remedy this problem, the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) and the Universidad de Ingeniería & Tecnologia (UTEC) are developing a master’s program in Preventive Conservation. In January 2017, Ellen Pearlstein, a professor in the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, Lindsay Ocal, a second-year UCLA/Getty student, and Leah Bright, a third-year graduate student in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, were invited to Peru to participate in an intensive week long planning meeting. Conservators, museum professionals, archaeologists, and engineers from museums, sites, and universities across Peru met in Lima to create a curriculum for this new MALI-UTEC master’s program.


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UCLA/Getty Program Welcomes Visiting Graduate Researcher Caitlin Spangler-Bickell

The UCLA/Getty Program welcomes Caitlin Spangler-Bickell who will be joining us a Visiting Graduate Researcher through August 2017.  While at UCLA, Caitlin will be working with Professor Ellen Pearlstein and Christian de Brer, Director of Conservation for the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Caitlin is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow with the Innovative Training Network NACCA – New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art . NACCA is a research consortium funded by the European Union with 15 PhD projects across Europe, each studying as yet under-explored aspects of contemporary art conservation. Caitlin is a PhD candidate with Maastricht University and is based at MUDEC (Museo delle Culture) in Milan working on a project entitled “Conservation of Contemporary Art and Ethnographic Materials: Relationships, Similarities and Differences“.

While in Los Angeles, she will be spending time with the UCLA/Getty Program and at the Fowler Museum studying what it means in practice to take an anthropological approach to conservation. Her research explores the dynamics between materiality and immateriality and the performative contexts of both cultural and artistic works – particularly altars and installations – and the challenge of addressing these issues in conservation practice.

Caitlin received her BA in Anthropology (Archaeology concentration) and French, Summa Cum Laude, from Saint Mary’s College of California and her MS in Anthropology, Summa Cum Laude, from KU Leuven in Belgium. In addition to conducting ethnographic and archaeological fieldwork, she has worked in various arts, culture, and natural history museum environments in the U.S., France, South Africa, and Belgium.

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The Man in the Mirror – a surprising find while cleaning a T’ang style bronze mirror

In the spring of 2016, we had the opportunity to work on a collection of ancient Chinese bronze mirrors from the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College, in our course “Conservation Laboratory: Metals I (CAEM 234)” taught by Professor David Scott. I conserved a mirror dated from the T’ang period (618-907 CE) which was heavily encrusted with soil and calcite burial deposits (fig. 1). At first it seemed to be a classic example from that period, with eight lobes and decorated with birds, ribbons and flowers – nothing out of the ordinary. But an unusual feature emerged on the decorated surface during the cleaning process.

mirror-fig1

Figure 1. T’ang period (618-907 CE) mirror before treatment. The decorated side of the mirror is covered with burial deposits such as soil and calcite.

Gradually, a figure of a man, quite literally peeking out from behind one of the flowing ribbons, emerged from under the layers of sand and calcite – his hat, robe, shoes, and beard all visible (fig. 2). The figure was a complete surprise – clearly part of the original casting though in a completely different style and carefully rendered like a tiny line drawing (fig. 3). Amazed that the figure had popped out of the proverbial woodwork (or rather, metalwork), I went back to the x-radiograph taken before treatment, and even there, the figure was nearly invisible – due to a combination of the overall high opacity of the leaded bronze as well as several casting flaws within the metal which helped to obscure small surface variations.

mirror-fig2

Figure 2. Detail of the area on the mirror where the figure was found.

The search began for comparable examples, but so far, after conferring several experts and pouring over online catalogs at other museums, no similar examples have turned up.

mirror-fig3

Figure 3. Drawing of the male figure found on the mirror.

Portable XRF analysis so far indicates that the alloy is within the acceptable ratio of copper, tin and lead for the period. The analysis has also revealed traces of mercury on the mirror-side of the piece, a possible clue that the mirror had been ‘shined’ with tin and mercury – a (non-plating) technique referred to by Zhu Shoukang, He Tangkun, and Nigel Meeks in Metal Plating and Patination: Cultural, Technical and Historical Developments, 1993.

mirror_overlay

Figure 4. Overly of the pXRF spectra collected from the decorated side of the mirror (red) and the mirror side (blue). Mercury (Hg) is present on mirror side but not the decorated side. (Data was collected using the Bruker Tracer SD-III for 900 seconds, at 40kV, 11μA, with a 1 mil Al/1 mil Ti/1 mil Cu filter).

So far, the iconography of this mirror remains a mystery. It is possible it is a later replica made sometime after the T’ang period. With luck and further analysis, the mystery of the “Man in the Mirror” can be further illuminated.

 

Hayley Monroe ’18
This work will be presented at the upcoming 2017 ANAGPIC Conference


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Class of 2016 3rd year Internship & Thesis Presentations

It’s the end of the quarter and today, the class of 2016 returns to our conservation training labs at the Getty Villa to give their final presentations as graduate students in our program.  They will be presenting on their 3rd year internships, as well as discussing the work they did for their MA thesis projects.  The day will end with a  small reception to celebrate the completion of their conservation degree and graduation!

A list of their 3rd year internship placements can be found on this previous post.   Here is a list of the M.A. thesis research they will also be sharing with us:

  • Colette Badmagharian – Piecing together the History of an 18th-century printed Armenian Prayer Scroll: The Study of Cultural Context and Manufacturing Techniques
  • Betsy Burr – Dye analysis of archaeological Peruvian textiles using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS)
  • Lesley Day – A Study of the Moiré Pattern of Tortoiseshell: Morphology of the Pattern, Techniques for Documentation, and Alterations of the Pattern and Shell by Accelerated Light Aging 
  • Tom McClintock – Documentation and Technical Study of Torqua  Cave
  • William Shelley – Biocorrosion of Archaeological Glass
  • Heather White – An Analysis of Unidentified Dark Materials Between Inlaid Motifs on Andean Wooden Qeros

Congratulations to the class of 2016 and good luck on your presentations today!


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Class of 2018 Summer Internships

The quarter is coming to an end and as our students are working to finish up object treatments and projects, they’re also getting ready to head out on their summer internships.  Here’s a list of the great places our students will be going to this summer:

We hope they enjoy their time at their internship sites and we look forward to hearing about the work they did when they come back this fall!