Conservators are always looking for new techniques that will aid in the examination and documentation of art. The UCLA/Getty Program purchased a forensic light source, the Mini CrimeScope (from Horiba Scientific), to investigate its application in conservation. The CrimeScope is an alternate light source used by crime scene investigators to look for blood stains, latent fingerprints or any other forensic evidence they could utilize for solving crimes. The wavelength of the emitted light in the CrimeScope is controlled by filter wheels that allow material to be examined from ultraviolet to infrared. Instead of solving crimes, students in the conservation program have been using it to solve archaeological mysteries through the study of ancient and ethnographic objects. Artifacts analyzed include pre-Columbian ceramics and polychrome African wooden masks. They have been using the light source to look for evidence to answer questions about materials, technology and manufacture of artifacts, areas of deterioration and signs of previous conservation interventions. Our CrimeScope has also been used by colleagues at the J. Paul Getty Museum to look at the faint remains of a drawing on a white ground lekythos.
The CrimeScope is being employed to compliment other techniques of analysis and provide a first screening during the examination of materials. With the use of a forensic camera and a series of different camera filters the students have also been able to record the fluorescence and luminescence of materials and to see beneath their surface. The results are remarkable and we are currently exploring other potential applications of our CrimeScope to investigate and document different archaeological and ethnographic treasures.