UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

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


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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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ANAGPIC 2015, here we come!

Our students and faculty are getting ready to head east to attend the 2015 ANAGPIC conference this week. This year, the conference will be co-hosted by the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) and the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate program in Historic Preservation. This is the first time that UPenn will be hosting ANAGPIC. They, along with Columbia University’s Historic Preservation program, joined ANAGPIC a couple of years ago. The addition of these programs broadens the scope of the papers presented and provides additional opportunities for students and preservation professionals to share information about their recent research and projects.

The UCLA/Getty Program will be well represented with 2 speakers and 4 posters. Abstracts of our program’s presentations are found below. For a full list of papers/posters presented and more information on the conference, you can check out the ANAGPIC 2015 website. And make sure to check out our Facebook page and blog for photos from the conference.


Papers

Torqua Cave: Documentation and Condition Assessment of Catalina’s Rock Images
Tom McClintock

The site of Torqua Cave is a rock shelter on Catalina Island, located 20 miles off the coast of Southern California. The largest of the Channel Islands, Catalina has a fascinating geologic history and is rich in marine and lithic resources. It was was inhabited at least 9000 years BP by the people known today as the Island Tongva. The first documentation of Torqua occurred in the early 1970’s with the identification of 19 red pictographs, although by today’s standards this campaign was not sufficiently systematic. To date there is little to no characterization of the site’s physical history.

This paper presents the results of new imaging technologies based on Decorrelation Stretch and an assessment of local climatic conditions and substrate composition, which will lead to a better understanding of the site’s history and deterioration. Following an assessment of condition, the significance of the site to its stakeholders, including the indigenous population, the island’s contemporary residents and its landowners, will be investigated.

Decorrelation Stretch is a method of producing false color digital images that is able to reveal severely faded pigmented decorative surfaces, which has been used successfully here to identify previously unrecognizable and invisible pictographs. Photogrammetry will be performed to create a unified image of the site, which, at roughly 50’ long and on a hillside, has not been possible to present previously. X-Ray Diffraction has identified the pigment used and the composition of its substrate. Portable x-Ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy and ultraviolet/visible/near infrared (UV/Vis/NIR) reflectance spectroscopy will be performed on-site to create a map of the panels’ surface composition for comparison with visual characteristics such as color variation, patterns of deterioration, presence of water from various sources, and accretions. Polarized light microscopy (PLM) will be performed on a thin-section slide of the host rock’s substrate for identification of its composite minerals. Environmental data loggers will be placed at the site to measure ambient temperature (T) and relative humidity (RH) at the site through daytime/nighttime cycles for a year to compliment spot measurements of rock surface temperature, T and RH that were collected in summer 2014.

This information will be used to characterize the degradation patterns of the bedrock panels that comprise this site, focusing on the interrelationship of the rock’s composition, local climate and water transfer through the rock and from external sources. An assessment of the site’s significant and the danger of anthropogenic impact will lead to recommendations concerning future management strategies and protection.

An Analysis of Unidentified Dark Materials Between Inlaid Motifs on Andean Wooden Queros: Preliminary Findings
Heather White

Paramount in the study of Andean civilizations, past and present, are the people’s rituals and ceremonial customs which have pervaded the Inka and post-Inka periods. These rituals mark social and religious occasions with offerings to the gods that ensure economic prosperity and good health. Decorated wooden cups, called qeros, have facilitated these customs through the centuries, witnessing long use-lives as they are passed down from generation to generation. As custodians of ancient Andean rituals and ways of life, contemporary Andeans use the cups as their ancestors did: to hold and transfer libations of blood or the fermented maize beer chicha, to honor, respect, and celebrate religious, social, and economic activities. It is from here that qeros enter museum collections, their use-life ends, and their preservation as vestiges of Andean culture and ritual begins. In recent years there have been technical studies of Andean qero technology focusing on the materials used for the polychrome inlay decoration, identified as an array of natural and manufactured pigments bound by an organic resin from species of the Elagaeia tree (E. utilis and E. pastoensis), locally known as mopa mopa. However, currently there is a lack of information concerning the dark material(s) present around the polychromy, which exhibits peculiar and substantial loss on vessels in many museum collections, sometimes as though it has been physically scraped off. For this study, different dark materials surrounding the polychrome design on a group of qeros belonging to the Fowler Museum at the University of California-Los Angeles were investigated in an effort to characterize them and potentially explain the technical, cultural, and/or ethnographic reasons for their presence and causes for their loss. Various documentation and analytical techniques were employed, including visual analysis, digital photography, UV-induced visible fluorescence, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), microscopy, portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). Preliminary results have shown surface modification and ethnographic wear which appear related to the material’s loss. Identifying this material(s), understanding its origin and explaining its loss will contribute to our knowledge of the vessels’ manufacture and/or ethnographic history and use, and guide our transferred custodianship over such artifacts of Andean traditions.

Posters
Technical study of a miniature Tuareg camel saddle using X-radiography and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy
Elizabeth Anne Burr

A miniature camel saddle from the Fowler Museum is an example of the dyed leather and metal work for which the Tuareg of Niger are known. This saddle made by Hamidan Oumba for the tourist market is a replica of traditional tamzak camel saddles used by the Tuareg elite. It was suggested by an African art scholar that a miniatures such as this would be constructed using the same materials and techniques as a traditional tamzak with a wooden frame. However, X-ray imaging revealed a substrate that included more dense materials in addition to wood. X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) data was acquired from a number of locations over different substrate materials (as corresponding to x-ray images), and different types of dyed leather, which were overlaid for interpretation. Correlations were found between the dense substrate material and the trace elements rubidium and strontium used to identify clays. This and the texture seen in X-ray image suggest that clay based components of the frame were manufactures for this object, a deviation from a traditional construction. Also, the turquoise leather was found to be rich in chlorine, copper, and tin, suggesting the use of bronze chloride corrosion to create the leather pigmentation as is traditional among the Tuareg. These results suggest a combination of both innovation and tradition in the construction of this art piece.

Diagnostic Imaging Techniques for the Identification of Tortoise Shell
Lesley Day

The focus of this poster is the documentation of a specific patterning, found within and unique to tortoise shell, made up of random swirling lines, which most likely correspond to the yearly depositions of keratin that occur as the turtle grows. This phenomenon has been observed in passing in some literature, but has not been fully characterized and is little understood in any discipline. The patterning has been observed as topography in some antique tortoise shell samples, and also as darkened lines in an example that appears to have suffered light damage. This poster will illustrate how documentation techniques including UV-induced visible fluorescence and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) have proven to be extremely useful in observing and documenting the pattern, and how characterization and further understanding of the pattern can be used as a diagnostic criteria for distinguishing tortoise shell from imitative materials such as plastic and horn.

The documentation illustrated in this poster is one component of my master’s thesis research about light-induced alterations to tortoise shell, and specifically how light may induce alterations to the patterning described, such as darkening and increased visibility. For the study, two taxidermied hawksbill turtles (Iretmochelys imbracata) were generously donated by the US Fish and Wildlife Department of Forensics, and the scutes from one turtle carapace were removed for use as the sample material. The samples are currently undergoing accelerated light aging under three different parameters: exposures mimicking window lighting (which filters some UV), museum lighting (which filters nearly all UV) and a chamber emitting UVA radiation. An important outcome of this research will be a better understanding of photochemically induced alterations in tortoise shell, and preventive lighting guidelines for tortoise shell materials based on the findings of the light aging study.

Piecing together the history of an 18th century printed Armenian Prayer Scroll
Colette Khanaferov

The use of prayer scrolls along with other religious art and literature have for played a significant role in the Armenian culture since the 5th century. The scope of this study is to investigate the history and materials used on a printed, 18th century Armenian prayer scroll. This analysis involves the examination of the scroll with the use of non-destructive analytical photography, fiber optic ultraviolet-visible and near infrared reflectance spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectromicroscopy. The study attempts to identify and characterize pigments, colorants, ink, and the paper used to construct the prayer scroll. The text along with the illustrations have been translated and studied in an attempt to provide an overall understanding of the scroll, printing techniques, religious significance, use, as well as the traditional practices in the Armenian culture in the 18th century.

Preliminary Research on Biocorrosion of Archaeological Glass
William Shelley

The scope of this research is to investigate the mechanisms and process of biologically induced corrosion of archaeological glass. Archaeological glass samples from Greece and Cyprus suspected to have undergone biocorrosion were analyzed to characterize the chemical composition, microstructure, and topography to determine the difference in the chemistry of the glass surface and the bulk. Analytical techniques included scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy. Modern glass samples were placed in petri dishes with sulfuric and oxalic acid to simulate potential corrosion from acids produced by microorganisms. This research aims to fill a gap in our knowledge on glass biocorrosion and to evaluate the effects of microorganism on archaeological glass.


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ANAGPIC 2014, here we come!

We’re getting ready to head out later this week to the annual meeting of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC) hosted this year by our colleagues at the Art Conservation Dept., Buffalo State College.  We’re really looking forward to the student papers presented on Friday, the professional talks on Saturday focusing on “Extreme Conservation”, and meeting with colleagues and friends.

We’re also hoping the rumors of spring-like weather back east are true, since some of us are so acclimatized to the weather out here, anything below 65 causes hypothermia (Did I mention it’ll be in the 80’s here this week?!)

This year we’re excited to have our program represented again at the conference.  We have two students, and an alum, presenting. Below is a preview of their talk titles and abstracts.

And make sure to stay tuned for posts and pictures on our Twitter feed (@uclagettycons) and our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/UCLAGettyProgram) from #anagpic2014!


Analysis and Conservation of a Pair of Cherokee Black-dyed Buckskin Moccasins: Preliminary Results
Alexis North (3rd year student, currently at University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

Chemical Analysis of Archaeological Peruvian Textiles
Betsy Burr (1st year student)

Delaying the Inevitable: An Investigation of Plastic Deterioration in Joseph Beuys Multiples
Nicole Ledoux (alum ’12, currently at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums)




Post by Vanessa Muros, Conservation Specialist, UCLA/Getty Program


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Looking forward to the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation annual meeting

 

LA-NAGPIC2013 logo

 

The UCLA/Getty Program—with a lot of help from our friends—is hosting the 2013 annual meeting of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation on April 25-27. This is the first time ever that this meeting will take place in Los Angeles! We’re so excited that our students designed the swank logo for the conference L-A-NAGPIC 2013. This meeting brings together students, faculty and staff from North American programs offering graduate degrees in conservation, including Buffalo State College, NYU (Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts), Queens University, UCLA/Getty, the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in art Conservation, and the Straus Center at Harvard which offers graduate fellowships. We are expecting close to 160 guests to visit in April.

Student papers will be presented on April 26 at the Getty Center, with twelve talks covering a broad array of topics in the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage including silk textiles, a 17th century manuscript, a painting by Georges Seurat, an orangutan taxidermy specimen, pinball art, and plant-based contemporary art as a sampling. Our own students at the UCLA/Getty Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation will present two papers: Caitlin Mahony is presenting her research and treatment of an American Indian quillwork leather vest in the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, and Casey Mallinckrodt will present her technical research and condition assessment of a Ptolemaic Egyptian sarcophagus from the San Diego Museum of Man. Their abstracts follow this post.

The second day of talks at the UCLA Lenart Auditorium, in the Fowler Museum on Saturday April 27, includes an Honorary Angelica Rudenstine Lecture presented by Robyn Sloggett, Director of the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Prof. Sloggett’s compelling topic is “Why conservation is critical to the future of our planet”. This lecture will be followed by our own Andrew W. Mellon Education Resident and Visiting Assistant Professor Tharron Bloomfield, moderating a panel discussion that builds on the specialties emphasized in the UCLA/Getty Program. “Conserving Communities” will include an indigenous archaeologist Desiree Martinez, an indigenous textile conservator Rangi Tena koe, as well as Judy Baca and Robyn Sloggett, scholars whose own work in preservation incorporates community members. Saturday will include a poster session with three UCLA/Getty posters, one authored by three students describing varied approaches to American Indian leather moccasin repairs, another about the use of pigment identification performed on the Ptolemaic child sarcophagus lid as an aid in identifying reused structural elements, and a third poster about the associated values considered in the development of a site management plan for the location of the Woodstock Festival of 1969.

ANAGPIC 2013 promises to promote research, conservation excellence, fun and SoCal weather!

Prof. Ellen Pearlstein

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Mending Leather and Quillwork on a Native American Vest: The Challenges and Achievements
Caitlin Mahony

In the fall of 2012, treatment was undertaken on a leather Native American vest with quillwork decoration. This paper will discuss the challenges that were encountered during the mending of the damaged leather and solutions that were found, which provided stability without further compromising the condition of the substrate. The vest to be discussed is from the Fowler Museum and is loosely attributed to the Sisseton (Santee) Sioux Indians. Its major condition issues were creases, tears, and losses to the leather, especially in the armhole region, which presumably occurred from repeated abrasion and exposure to moisture from extensive use. Pervasive insect damage throughout the quillwork left a significant amount of quills lost, lifting, or insecure and in need of stabilization. An analysis of a sample of collagen fibers from the leather revealed a shrinkage temperature in the range of 32-36, far below the range that would be expected of stable oil tanned leather, as is commonly used by the tribes of the Sioux Nations. Due to the instability of the leather, it was deemed necessary to develop a treatment that would avoid excessive use of solvents, exclude any use of water, and avoid using heat to reactivate adhesives. After evaluating several adhesives and carriers through the development and testing of mock repairs with chamois, an interior hinge system of Reemay with adhesive film that reactivated with solvent was used with great success. The same adhesive film with Tyvek carrier was used to stabilize broken and lifting quills. The mends to the leather and quill both demonstrated a desired strength and flexibility. Details of these mending procedures will be discussed as well as the decision-making process that determined the treatment materials and methods.

This Old Foot: Technical analysis of a Ptolemaic Child Sarcophagus to Identify Structural Components Repurposed from other Ancient Coffins
Catherine (Casey) S. Mallinckrodt

It is well known that Egyptians constructed highly elaborate and protective structures to transport the dead into the afterlife. While it might seem inconsistent that coffins would be emptied of their inhabitants and repurposed, in the approximately 3000 thousand years during which ancient Egyptian funerary practices involved decorated coffins, there is evidence of significant reuse to meet the needs of the always-flourishing funerary business.   Through the waves of “Egyptomania” that began after the 18th century rediscovery of ancient Egyptian tombs, coffin parts have been repurposed to meet the demands of collectors.

The first stages of the technical analysis of a Ptolemaic Child Sarcophagus from the San Diego Museum of Man has revealed the possibility that both the foot block and the carved face may have been reused from different coffins and at different times.    This talk will describe the structural and stylistic differences that suggested reuse, describe the analytic methods used to distinguish the component parts, and present the relevant results of the analysis. The content of scholarly consultation and research will be presented including a discussion of both ancient and modern contexts of reuse.

The description of the structure and methods of manufacture will be accompanied by graphic illustrations and x-radiographic images. Comparison of pigment mixtures and the microstructure of particles from the head, body and foot will be accompanied by photomicrographs, x-ray fluorescence analysis, and forensic photographic images that demonstrate the presence of Egyptian blue.

It is hoped that this talk will offer meaningful information about the effectiveness of these analytic techniques in exploring characteristic differences in components of an ancient object, as well as considering the pathway this object might have taken from Ptolemaic Egypt to a conservation lab in coastal California.


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2012 ANAGPIC Conference

Next week we will be heading to New York City to attend this year’s ANAGPIC conference hosted by the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU from April 12-14. Here’s a sneak peak at what our 1st and 3rd years will be presenting:

Papers
The ‘dead-bucket’: An inexperienced conservator’s guide for evaluating setbacks
Ayesha Fuentes and Geneva Griswold

Setbacks are an often-unacknowledged reality of conservation practices. This paper examines various types of setbacks, shortcomings, and mistakes in conservation practice, including unsuccessful treatments, errors in judgment, and the limits of intervention. While it may be tempting for a young conservator to anticipate these types of experiences as ‘failures,’ we argue that these situations provide opportunities for growth and development. While a senior professional may readily recognize the value in setbacks and contextualize them by drawing upon their past experiences, we seek to explore the ways in which a less seasoned practitioner may productively reinterpret or reevaluate such situations in terms of our expectations, achievements, and sense of personal responsibility. Categories of setbacks will be illustrated with specific examples from personal experiences and those of our cohort-at-large as pre-program trainees and students.

This project was first inspired by the attempted re-treatment of a ceramic object during the Fall of 2011 at the UCLA/Getty Conservation Training Program. While the objectives of the assigned exercise were unmet — the object was returned to the lending institution in the same condition that it arrived at our training labs— the student learned appreciably about the effects of material degradation, the decision-making process for designating an object as un-treatable, and the ethical considerations such conclusions require. Further examples of setbacks include errors in judgment — such as removing original polychromy by wheeling a tall, wooden sculpture into a low door frame — and a lack of self-awareness with drastic consequences for object safety when a ceramic figure was knocked off a table as a result of fatigue. By reflecting on and discussing the setbacks we encounter as inexperienced conservators, it is possible to glean lessons about our limitations and expectations of conservation practices, and to integrate these into our evolving working methods. Strategies for reevaluating these experiences include viewing them in terms of their positive role in developing long-term goals and practical methodologies as well as promoting a non-punitive and professional culture of honesty, humor, and acceptance. We hope that our attitude will help establish, in the words of Marincola and Maisey (2011), ‘a more fruitful learning culture’ for the benefit of both the field of conservation and its mission to protect and preserve historic and artistic materials.

We hope that by encouraging a collaborative and collective acknowledgement of our limits and, simply put, humanity, will help redefine learning goals for emerging conservation professionals. We believe that fostering an open dialogue amongst our peers, and eventually the conservation community-at-large, will promote a deeper understanding of our methods and the body of wisdom from which we draw as a discipline. Additionally, we would like to promote the idea and organization of an online, perhaps anonymous, forum for practitioners at all stages of their careers to report similar experiences.

 
Unmasking the surface: A technical analysis of eight polychrome Kuba masks
Geneva Griswold and Madeleine Neiman

The Kuba region, positioned in south-central Democratic Republic of Congo, between the Sankuru, Kasai, and Lulua Rivers, is widely renowned for its vibrant masking tradition. Funerals and initiation ceremonies often include a masquerade, honoring the initiate through dance, masks, clothing, and associated accouterments. While the fields of anthropology and art history have devoted significant time and study to the Kuba masquerade traditions, technical analysis of the methods and materials used in the masks’ fabrication is limited. During the fall of 2011, the first year students at the UCLA/Getty Program in collaboration with their colleagues in the Material Science and Archaeology departments conducted a technical study of a suite of eight Kuba masks in the Fowler Museum’s Wellcome Trust collection. Students employed both non-invasive and invasive techniques including: forensic imaging, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), and ultra-violet-visible-near-infrared (UV-Vis-NIR) spectroscopy, optical microscopy under white, plane, and cross-polarized light (PLM), X-ray diffraction spectroscopy (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and microchemical testing. This paper endeavors to place the information gathered within the larger context of Kuba scholarship, by highlighting the common aspects between the masks as well as their variability. Examination of this collection of Kuba masks contributes to further understanding of the masks’ construction, adaptation, and use, thereby promoting a deeper and fuller understanding of the objects as historic artifacts as well as aid in determining proper methods of handling, storage, display, and conservation.

 
Posters
Treatment of eagle and northern flicker feathers on a Native American shield cover
Tessa de Alarcon

Stabilization of eagle and Northern flicker feathers (Colaptes aurates) was undertaken on a Plains shield cover in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Material testing for vane repair and loss compensation was conducted on damaged turkey feathers. Vane repair testing included bridges of hair silk adhered with 5% methyl cellulose as well as linings of light weight Japanese tissue, Hollytex (spunbonded polyester), and silk Crepeline each adhered with 2% methyl cellulose, Lascaux 360, Lascaux 498, or AYAF (polyvinyl acetate resin). Both of the Lascaux adhesives and the AYAF were painted onto the supports and reactivated with heat or solvents. Methyl cellulose performed better than the other adhesives and the hair silk bridges were the least visually intrusive and provided the best support. Loss compensation methods tested included two weights of Japanese tissue (light weight and heavy weight), as well as Hollytex adhered with 2% methyl cellulose. Since methyl cellulose performed better than the other adhesives, it was the only one tested. The lightweight Japanese tissue adhered best in the loss compensation tests. Hair silk and Japanese tissue adhered with methyl cellulose were used on the shield cover feathers with good results.

 
The Significance of Surface in Central African Masks: Pigment Identification of Polychrome Wood masks from the Congo
Geneva Griswold, Casey Mallinckrodt, Brittany Dolph

The treatment of surfaces in African masking traditions reflects the adaptation of materials for cultural ritual and use. This poster presents a study of surfaces using micro-analytic techniques, whose results provoke questions regarding the masks’ methods of manufacture, material adaptation, and provenance. The colors of different chemical composition and microstructure were sampled from a suite of eight polychrome wood masks from the Kuba region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dispersion and cross-section samples of the wood and pigments were analyzed using polarized light microscopy (PLM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in order to ascertain their chemistry and composition. PLM enabled direct observation of optical characteristics relating to particle size, habit, relief, and color under plane polarized light, as well as crossed polarized light observation of birefringence and interference colors, when present. Such characteristics successfully identified the pigments applied on each mask, and facilitated the comparison of manufacturing techniques and materials within the suite. As well, PLM and SEM analyses corroborated evidence attained from XRF, XRD, UV/Vis/NIR, and SEM/EDX investigations. This investigation contributes to our understanding of Kuba mask materials and production, as well as highlights the role of microscopy and microanalysis in the study of African masking traditions.

 
Tunable Light Sources and Modified Cameras: Utilizing Imaging Techniques to Better Understand Ancient Art at the J. Paul Getty Museum
Dawn Lohnas

Two relatively new imaging techniques, used by both the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program and the Getty Villa antiquities conservation laboratory, have recently been adopted to assist with the non-invasive analysis and documentation of artifacts. The UCLA/Getty Program utilizes a modified camera with an “alternate light source (ALS)” (Mini-CrimeScope®400), which is traditionally used in forensic science. Providing light at narrow band wavelengths using a series of filters, this equipment allows for easy analysis over a broad spectral range. Faintly painted figural outlines on a recently acquired lekythos in the Getty Villa collection were successfully photographed using this technique, and are now included on the object label in the museum’s galleries, illustrating how the vase once looked in antiquity. In addition to the ALS, scientists, conservators and students at the Getty make use of a modified camera system for capturing Visible-induced infrared luminescence of Egyptian blue. It can be used in-situ to confirm the identification of Egyptian blue without sampling, and has helped to identify areas of restoration, and areas of paint decoration that are difficult if not impossible to identify under normal lighting conditions. Several case studies involving these imaging techniques will be discussed.


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ANAGPIC 2011

The UCLA/Getty Conservation Program will surely be well represented at this year’s ANAGPIC conference with 2 papers and 4 posters.  Here’s a preview of what will be presented:

Papers:

  • Time, Erosion and Earthen Architecture: Documenting the Effectiveness of Protective Shelters for Mud-Brick Structures
    Elizabeth Drolet
  • On the Surface: A Cultural and Scientific Analysis of the Applied Surface from Two West African Komo Masks
    Robin OHern

Posters:

  • Cahuilla Sandals: Materials and Construction Methods
    Tessa de Alarcon
  • Characterization and Analysis of a Likely Khipu from Northern Chile
    Dawn Lohans
  • An Investigation of Loss Compensation Materials for the Conservation of
    Coiled Basketry
    Nicole Ledoux
  • Some re-Assembly Required: The Conservation of a Makah Trinket
    Basket
    Cindy Lee Scott

Make sure to visit the blog later in April for more on our participation in this year’s ANAGPIC conference.

The ANAGPIC conference is fast approaching and UCLA/Getty students are finalizing their papers and posters. Here’s what they’ll be presenting at this year’s conference:

Papers:

  • Treatment and Technical Study of a Lakota Beaded Hide
    Nicole Ledoux
  • The Chemical Characterization and Removal of Lac Dye Staining on White-Ground Ceramics
    Cindy Lee Scott and Elizabeth Drolet (UCLA/Getty), Rita Blaik, (UCLA Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering)

Posters:

  • A Comparison of Block Lifting Materials and Techniques
    Lily Doan, Nicole Ledoux, and Robin O’Hern
  • Technical Study and Conservation of an Apache Coiled Basket
    Linda Lin
  • The Conservation and Reburial of a Greco-Roman Wall Painting: The Site of Karanis, Fayum, Egypt
    Suzanne Morris

Come back and visit the blog after the conference for more posts and pictures!


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2010 ANAGPIC Papers are Published

Student papers from the 2010 ANAGPIC conference held at Queen’s University are now available online. Check out the following papers from UCLA/Getty Program students Nicole Ledoux, Cindy Lee Scott, and Elizabeth Drolet. Abstracts of the papers and links to the PDF version can be found below.

Congratulations to our students on the publication of their paper and all their hard work on these projects!

Treatment and Technical Study of a Lakota Beaded Hide
Nicole Ledoux

This paper discusses the conservation and technical study of a Lakota (est.) beaded hide object in very poor condition. The piece, whose original function is not known, was reported as collected in the late 19th or early 20th century by John Anderson, a photographer living on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. It was passed down through family lines until it was recently donated to the UCLA/Getty conservation program. At some point in its history, the piece suffered liquid damage that has drastically altered more than half of the hide area, causing darkening, embrittlement, fragmentation, and damage to the associated beadwork, including localized staining resulting in part from bead corrosion. In order to better understand these alterations and their implications for conservation treatment, a technical study has been undertaken that includes both morphological characterization and materials analysis of the hide and tannins. Continued work has included identification of bead composition and characterization of the various alteration products, as well as consultation with tribal and museum experts about original function and appropriate loss compensation. This object provides an interesting case study for investigating the deterioration of semi-tanned hide and the approach taken in treating such significantly altered material.

The Chemical Characterization and Removal of Lac Dye Staining on White-Ground Ceramics
Cindy Lee Scott and Elizabeth Drolet (UCLA/Getty), Rita Blaik, (UCLA Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering)

A late fifth century B.C. white-ground lekythos from the Antikensammlung Museum in Berlin was loaned to the J. Paul Getty Museum (JPGM) in 2006 to be re-restored and studied.  The vessel fragments were poorly assembled with crude shellac in the nineteenth century.  As a part of the conservation efforts at the Getty, the vase was disassembled by fuming in a solvent saturated environment of a 1:1 mixture of ethanol and acetone, which caused a pinkish-purple stain to develop.  Although  numerous materials and techniques were tested, an adequate method for removing the stain has not yet been found.

This paper builds upon the research conducted by conservators and conservation scientists at the JPGM-Department of Antiquities Conservation and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and aims to characterize the nature of the chemical bond formed between the lac dye- a constituent of crude shellac- and the substrate of the white-ground.  The methodology is based on experimental and analytical testing on mock-up tiles and has two phases: first to replicate and characterize the staining and second, to perform cleaning trials using a variety of poulticing materials and organic solvents to adequately reduce or remove the staining without altering the white-ground surface.