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)

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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)

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“Curation and Conservation for Tribal Collections” Workshop

UCLA American Indian Studies Center
40th Anniversary Celebration
UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation
invite you to

Curation and Conservation for Tribal Collections

May 28th 2010
Getty Villa Museum, Malibu

This event is designed to benefit staff, interns and volunteers at centers caring for tribal collections in the greater Los Angeles area, and to introduce them to resources available locally, nationally, and especially at UCLA. This event is designed to expose tribal members already working in area tribal museums and archives to professional and educational opportunities, to expose younger tribal members to projects related to their culture, and to encourage them to pursue higher education in fields relevant to museum and archival work.


  • Wendy Teeter, Curator of Archaeology at UCLA’s Fowler Museum: collaborating with communities in the curation of archaeological collections.
  • Ruth Bahylle, (Pawnee/Choctaw) UCLA PhD candidate in Archival Studies: archival management for tribal collections.
  • Ellen Pearlstein, Associate Professor, UCLA: incorporating tribal communities into graduate education in ethnographic conservation.
  • Molly Gleeson, (UCLA M.A. ’08) former Conservator at the San Diego Museum of Man: resources for collections care for tribal communities.
  • Özge Gençay Űstűn, (UCLA M.A. ’08) Assistant Conservator at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian: detection of residual pesticides applied to tribal collections and safe handling and response.
  • Jill Norwood, (Tolowa) Community Services Specialist, National Museum of American Indian: resources available to Native museums and cultural centers through the NMAI Museum Training Program.

Program will include tours of graduate conservation laboratories at UCLA/Getty
Parking and box lunches included

To register, please send attached application to aiscworkshop [at] ucla.edu
Application as MS Word document
Application as PDF