UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

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

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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.


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.

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


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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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.

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2010 Society for California Archaeology (SCA) Meeting

Our program was represented at the 2010 Society for California Archaeology Annual meeting last week in Riverside, CA. Dr. Georgia Fox, a conservator and archaeologist on faculty in the Anthropology department at CSU Chico (and co-director of the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology and Museum Studies Program) chaired the conference this year. In an attempt to include a stronger conservation presence at the meeting, she solicited the help of program alumna Molly Gleeson (’08) to organize a conservation session.      

Dr. Georgia Fox (CSU Chico), Program chair for this year's SCA Meeting

The session was comprised of 5 presentations:

  1. “Conservation of Archaeological Materials in California: An Overview,” presented by Dr. Georgia Fox. In her paper, Georgia discussed the ongoing challenges of curating and caring for archaeological materials and the timeliness of the presence of conservation in this meeting. She also provided an overview of the pre-conference Curation Workshop, “First Aid for California Finds,” taught by Jacqueline Zak and Alice Paterakis.
  2. “Connecting to collections and communities: addressing the needs of California cultural heritage through education and technology,” presented by UCLA/Getty Staff Research Associate Vanessa Muros and program alumna Ozge Gencay Ustun (’08). Vanessa and Ozge presented several initiatives undertaken by the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program in the areas of conservation education and outreach with various stakeholders caring for California artifacts and sites. They also discussed issues such as pesticides in museum collections and the development of several web-based conservation resources.
  1. “Examination and Documentation of Plant Fibers Used in Southern California Basketry,” presented by Molly Gleeson. This presentation was based on work carried out by the class of 2008 in the course “Conservation and Ethnography”, taught by Prof. Ellen Pearlstein. The work included a combination of examination methods and collaboration with the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and Cahuilla basket weaver Donna Largo.


Molly Gleeson, UCLA/Getty Program alum and organizer of this year's conservation session.

  1. “A Metal Intervention: Anoxic Treatment of Metal Artifacts from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area,” presented by Kathleen Clevenger. Katie received her MA from Stanford in 2008 and she is currently working for the National Park Service in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Presidio Archaeology Lab. The project she spoke about described an anoxic storage re-housing project, which began with an initial survey of the collection by archaeological conservator Howard Wellman.
  2. “New Methods in Digital Imagery: Documentation of Archaeological and Historical Data as Long-Term Conservation Tools,” presented by Dr. Bekir Gurdil. Dr. Gurdil holds a PhD. from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and he is currently working as a research scientist in the Department of Religion, USC, for the InscriptiFact Project . He spoke about the use of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) technology to document and examine artifacts, particularly those with inscriptions, and the application of the technology for larger-scale projects, such as the documentation of rock art.

This was the first time a conservation session was held at the SCAs. The aim of this session was to introduce the audience to some conservators working in the state and also to present some of the ongoing conservation work and outreach related to California artifacts, sites and the communities working with these materials. Based on positive feedback and high attendance in the session, we are encouraged to hold a conservation session at this meeting again. In an attempt to understand some of the conservation issues faced by archaeologists, tribal members and other individuals working with California sites and artifacts, we made a Conservation Questionnaire. We hope that the information collected in this questionnaire will help us develop content for web resources and future conservation sessions in archaeology meetings.

For more images of the conference, visit the UCLA Getty Program’s Facebook page.

Post submitted by Molly Gleeson (UCLA/Getty Program ’08)