UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

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


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.



Leave a comment

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

Beantown or Bust – the 2016 ANAGPIC Conference

It’s that time of the year again….No, not when we sit back in LA enjoying the 85° weather and work on our tans, while the Midwest and Northeast deals with freezing temperatures and 1-3 inches of snow in April (too soon?)….But that time when students from North American conservation graduate programs gather for the annual ANAGPIC conference.

This year the conference is being hosted by the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums and will take place April 14th-16th.  In addition to the great papers that will be presented highlighting student work from many conservation specialties, this year includes a poster lightning round.  The conference also coincides with the Joint Interim Meeting of ICOM-CC’s Scientific Research and Education and Training in Conservation Working Groups.  That meeting will be held at the same location, on April 13-14th, prior to the start of ANAGPIC .

This year we have a few presentations from UCLA/Getty students.  3rd year student Colette Badmagharian will present the results of her research on an Armenian prayer scroll that she conducted as part of their MA thesis project.  We also have two 1st year students, Marci Burton and Lindsay Ocal, who will be presenting in the lightning round session.  You can find presentation titles and abstracts below.

For more information on the ANAGPIC 2016 conference, to access the conference schedule or read the abstracts of the papers that will be presented, please visit site: http://harvardanagpic16.com/  Information about the ICOM-CC Joint Interim Meeting can be found here: http://icom-ccharvard.com/

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

18th-century Armenian Prayer Scroll: The Study of Cultural Context and the Characterization of Manufacturing Techniques 
Colette Badmagharian
For centuries, prayer scrolls and illuminated Gospels have played a crucial role in Armenian history and culture. Relatively little is known about the materials and techniques used to construct such Armenian texts and potential risks for their survival. To bridge this gap in our knowledge, a severely damaged 18th-century Armenian prayer scroll was investigated, using a holistic and integrated approach that combined both cultural and historical context with scientific research. Selected texts and illustrations were translated and thoroughly examined with members of the Armenian community and further investigated with comparative examples from various institutions. This examination led to an appropriate preventive conservation measure that was taken to ensure the preservation of the fragile prayer scrolls.  Pigments, colorants, and ink, were characterized with the use of non-invasive and non-destructive techniques including analytical photography, ultraviolet, visible and near infrared (UV-Vis-NIR) fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS), X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and Raman spectromicroscopy (mRS). This study provided an overall understanding of the constituent materials, printing techniques, religious significance, use and function, as well as traditional practices of the Armenian culture in the 18th-century.

Poster Lightning Round
3D Computed Tomographic Analysis of a Pre-Columbian Chilean Child Mummy Bundle
Marci Burton

Analysis and Retreatment of an Archaeological Polychrome Ceramic Bowl from Amapa, Mexico
 Lindsay Ocal

Leave a comment

UCLA/Getty Program Welcomes Visiting Scholar Dr. Pujun Jin

The UCLA/Getty Conservation Program welcomes visiting scholar Dr. Pujun Jin, who will be with us through November 2016.  During his time here, he will be working Dr. David Scott examining ancient Chinese bronzes. Dr. Jin joins us from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Shaanxi Normal University, China.  He received his Ph.D. in Scientific History and Archaeometry from the University of Science and Technology of China. His current research focuses on the metallurgical examination of artifacts excavated from the site of Sanxidui dating to the Shang Dynasty.  He is also studying the lost-wax technique used to cast a bronze mou (cooking vessel) from the Ba Culture and the corrosion and conservation of ancient Chinese plated bronzes.

Pujun Jin

Leave a comment

UCLA/Getty Program Welcomes Mellon Fellow in Conservation Education Laleña Vellanoweth

The UCLA/Getty Program is pleased to welcome Laleña Vellanoweth as the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation Education for the 2015-16 academic year.

Laleña is a Costume and Textile Conservator. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry and B.A. in Art from California State University, Los Angeles and her M.A. in Art History and Certificate in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She has worked at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Autry National Center, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

As part of her Mellon Fellowship, she will be researching diversity in art conservation and surveying parallel diversity programs for other museum fields. She will also be working on a research project on Californio costume, focusing on a technical study of three charro suits from the early nineteenth century, one of which was worn by Don Vincente Lugo, a member of one of the founding families of Los Angeles. Laleña will also give lectures on textiles and costume, including fiber identification and costume mounting.