UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

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

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The “Curation and Conservation for Tribal Collections” Workshop

“Curation and Conservation for Tribal Collections”
May 28, 2010 at the Getty Villa Museum
Sponsored by UCLA American Indian Studies Center and UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation

In spite of our busy schedules (especially at the end of our first year, when many projects and treatments are being completed), the students of the UCLA/Getty Conservation program attended this wonderful workshop designed to encourage younger tribal members to pursue fields related to museum and archival work.

The workshop began bright and early at 9:00 am. The first speaker was Wendy Teeter, Curator of Archaeology at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Wendy spoke about her experiences collaborating with tribal communities and the museum’s dedication to serving Los Angeles tribes. The second speaker was Ruth Bayhylle, (Pawnee/Choctaw) UCLA PhD candidate in Library and Information Studies. The students caught a rare glimpse of Professor Ellen Pearlstein’s other life as faculty in the Library and Information Studies program, where she served as Ruth’s advisor. Ruth took us on a visit to various tribal collections where she worked on archiving maps and transcribing interviews. It was interesting to see how various tribal collections are housed, and we even got to see some objects in the background of the pictures.

The third speaker was our very own Ellen Pearlstein, Associate Professor, UCLA/Getty Program. Ellen introduced the basic concepts of conservation education, emphasizing her belief that cultural values should be included as an essential component in conservation. Next to speak was Molly Gleeson, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, class of 2008, who presented various educational and training resources for the care of tribal collections. Molly did an impressive job of compiling a wide array of resources that included formal MA programs, free how-to videos available on the web, and training programs that will accommodate the schedules of tribal members with responsibilities in their community.

Lunch was provided by our friends at Bon Appetit, the restaurant at the Getty which has single-handedly ensured the students of our program were cared for with proper sustenance this last year, for most of us have been too busy for menial tasks like preparing meals. After lunch, Özge Gençay Üstün, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, class of 2008, presented on the detection of residual pesticides in collections. This is a very important topic, since in the past many museums routinely treated ethnographic collections with pesticides, some of which are toxic and may have harmful effects on those handling such objects. The final speaker was Jill Norwood, (Tolowa) Community Services Specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian. Jill spoke of various resources available to Native museums and cultural centers through the NMAI Museum Training Program.

The workshop concluded with a tour of the UCLA/Getty laboratories, during which we shared with the workshop attendees some of our current projects. The greatest part of the tour was when the attendees shared their unique knowledge and experiences with similar objects, in particular the beaded hide object and the feather headdress. The attendees’ information contributed to the overall understanding of the objects and their cultural context.

Cindy Lee Scott (right) presents her examination and treatment of an African basket covered with leather.

Elizabeth Drolet (center) explains how x-rays and condition diagrams have assisted in her treatment of a Pre-Columbian ceramic.

Nicole Ledoux discusses her examination and ongoing treatment of a Plains Indian beaded hide object. The technical analysis of this object was presented at this year’s ANAGPIC conference that was held at Queen’s University in Canada.

Robin O’Hern exhibits her impressive reconstruction of the base of a glass vase. To reassemble the many fragments of the base, Robin had to experiment with molds to use as a point of reference as well as devise creative methods to provide support to the base during the treatment.

With her laptop at hand, Tessa de Alarcon discusses one of her favorite topics, how microscopic techniques may be used to analyze and possibly identify archaeological fibers.

Dawn Lohnas explains the construction technique of a feather object, which was a replica of a Maidu headdress made for the education collection of the Southwest Museum.

The students agree that one of the many strengths of our program is the emphasis on caring for tribal collections. Collaborative efforts like this workshop offer the students a unique and enriching experience…and we are so proud of Professor Ellen Pearlstein as well as former UCLA/Getty Conservation students Molly Gleeson and Ozge Gencay Ustun! And we cannot forget, or thank enough, the amazing Vanessa Muros for her never ending assistance.

After the workshop ended, we diligently returned to our studies and numerous projects as we finished up the whirlwind that was our first year in school. By now, many of the students have packed their bags and left for various parts of the world for their summer internships.

Lily Doan (’12)