UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

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


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Project News: The application of cyclododecane (CDD) for lifting fragile lacquer fragments from burial environments

Research for this poster was conducted as part of the course “Science of Conservation Materials and Methods I” (CAEM M216) and presented at the Annual Conference of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC), Buffalo State College, April 24-25, 2009

The production of lacquer varnishes has a long history in Chinese arts and crafts that dates to the Qin (221-206 BCE) and Han (206 BCE-220 AD) Dynasties. Unfortunately, lacquer wares (commonly made with a wooden substrate) from burial sites especially in northern China were seldom preserved, owing to underground water, seasonal fluctuations and other unfavorable conditions such as soil chemistry. What archaeologists usually find on excavation sites are pieces of lacquer stuck on wet soil; the wooden substrate having completely deteriorated.

This project explores different approaches and materials that would enable conservators and archaeologists to safely lift fragile lacquer fragments without causing further mechanical damage, while keeping humidity constant, thus preventing the shrinkage of the lacquer. A series of experiments were therefore formulated simulating burial conditions containing lacquer fragments and different conservation materials and methods were tested to determine how best to lift the fragile lacquer. The best results were obtained by facing the lacquer with molten cyclododecane (CDD), a waxy cyclic hydrocarbon that sublimes at room temperature, over pre-wet, loose-woven cotton cloth. By utilizing the versatile properties of CDD and the pre-wet cloth, the lacquer fragments were successfully lifted from the experimental setting without further observable damages and without causing any chemical or physical alteration.

Poster-The use of cyclododecane (CDD) for lifting fragile lacquer from burial environments

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UCLA/Getty Program 3rd Year Placements-Class of 2010

The following are the 3rd year internship placements for the class of 2010:

  • Siska Genbrugge – Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA); Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (Lisbon, Portugal); Luxor Temple, Epigraphic Survey, University of Chicago (Luxor, Egypt); Organics Conservation Laboratory, British Museum (London, UK)
  • Lauren Horelick – Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Los Angeles, CA); Alaska State Museum (Juneau, AK); American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
  • Jiafang Liang – Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum (China); Nelson Atkins Museum (Kansas City, MO)
  • Linda Lin – Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies (Athens, Greece); Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA)
  • Suzanne Morris – Santa Teresa Monastery Museum (Arequipa, Peru); UCLA/RUG Fayum Project (Fayum, Egypt); Aneta Zebala Conservation Studio (Los Angeles, CA)


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Program alumni organize 2009 AIC Angel’s Project

Recent graduates Molly Gleeson (’08) and Ozge Gencay-Ustun (’08) are the organizers of this year’s American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) Angels Project taking place at the Sherman Indian Museum. Each year, in conjunction with the AIC Annual Meeting, an “Angel’s project” takes place providing conservation and collection care for institutions with important cultural collections but may not have enough resources for certain conservation or preservation initiatives. The organizers chose the Sherman Indian Museum after meeting and working with Lorene Sisquoc, Curator, as part of a course offered through the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program. During this year’s project, the volunteers will travel down to Riverside to inventory, survey and re-house objects and archival materials from the museum’s collection.


The project is supported by contributions from Metal Edge, Inc., Southwest Museum of the American Indian, Autry National Center, PACIN – Packing Art handling and Crating Information Network (a Professional Interest Committee of the American Association of Museums), the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, and Paul Messier of Paul Messier, LLC.


For more information on AIC or the Angel’s Project, visit AIC’s website.


2009 Angel’s Project Press Release Press Release


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UCLA/Getty Program Exhibition

On May 15th, the UCLA/Getty Program is staging an exhibition of Native American objects from the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum (ACCM) that were treated by current and past conservation students. The objects were conserved as part of the course “Ethnography and Conservation” taught by Prof. Ellen Pearlstein where students work on a range of objects from ACCM’s collection in consultation with tribal members. This is the first exhibit created by the conservation program featuring the treatments and material studies the students undertook as part of their lab work for the course. It provides a great opportunity for the wider UCLA community to learn what conservation is and what type of work the students undertake in the program, as well as learn about these amazing objects and the collection of the Agua Caliente Museum.

Securing an ivory figurine to a mount using monofilament

Securing an ivory figurine to a mount using monofilament. Object on display courtesy of ACCM

The objects will be exhibited in a wall case in the lobby and exhibition area of the Young Research Library at UCLA. Early preparations for the exhibit involved the creation of a micro-climate for the case in order to create the appropriate environmental conditions to exhibit the objects made primarily of organic materials. The main goal of this stage of the preparations was to create and maintain a constant relative humidity (RH) within the case of 50% using conditioned silica gel. The case then had to be sealed in order to reduce air exchange and any changes to the humidity levels within the case. The strange site of many stacked cartridges of silica gel within the exhibition case has peaked the interest of many visitors and library staff at YRL, even making the library’s blog.


Installation of an Apache basket into the exhibition case

Installation of an Apache basket into the exhibition case. Object on display courtesy of ACCM.

After introducing moisture into the case and monitoring conditions using a data logger, it appears that the RH has now reached 50% just in time for the installation of the objects this week. The exhibit opens on Friday, May 15th and runs through the end of June. If you find yourself on campus, make sure to stop by the lobby and exhibition area of YRL to check out the objects and the very informative didactic panels accompanying each object.


Objects on display courtsey of ACCM

Objects on display courtesy of ACCM.