Interested in learning what conservators and archaeologists do? Want to learn more about graduate programs in these fields? Want to spend a day visiting labs, learning about cool projects or talking to interesting people? Well don’t miss the annual Open House at UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology held on Sat. May 8th, from 1-4pm.
The Open House gives the public the opportunity to have a glimpse into the world of archaeologists and conservators to find out what exactly they do and to learn about the various projects they are currently involved. Lectures, weaving demonstrations and visits to various labs (including our small analytical lab at the Cotsen) are available.
If you’re interested in conservation and want to learn more about our program, stop by room A410 of the Cotsen Institute to talk to UCLA/Getty Program students and faculty. You’ll learn about what conservators do, what graduate conservation training programs are like and the types of projects we work on.
More information about the Open House can be found on the flyer below or by visiting the Cotsen Institute’s event calendar. You can check out some pictures from last year’s Open House in this Facebook album.
During the first quarter of the first year, the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program offers a course on documentation and imaging techniques used for art, archaeology and conservation. In the class, students are introduced to a range of techniques used to document objects and sites and are given a project where they can put what they have learned in the lectures into practice. This year one of the projects focused on documenting the condition of a mural painting located on a building on UCLA’s campus. Three students had the opportunity to examine and document the condition of a section of a mural on the ceiling of the eastern cloister of Royce Hall, one of the four original buildings on the campus. Using various photographic and recording techniques, the students were able to provide a condition assessment of a small section of the murals in this part of the building. In addition to learning how to apply the techniques they learned and become aware of their advantages and limitations, the students were able to provide some information to those responsible for the building on the condition of the mural and issues that may need to be addressed to ensure the preservation of the decorated surfaces.
The presentation below was prepared by the students working on this project and provides a brief summary of the techniques they used for documenting the murals and their results.
In the fall of 2009, the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program offered the course “Introduction to Archaeological Materials Science: Scientific Techniques, Methodologies and Interpretation” (CAEM M210) that focused on basic scientific techniques employed for the examination of archaeological and cultural artifacts to answer questions of anthropological significance and their state of preservation. Among the techniques covered were UV/VIS/NIR spectrophotometry, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Students were assigned small research projects in which they would apply these techniques, in addition to others discussed in this and other courses, to the investigation of various materials to answer questions about technology and condition.
The four groups of artifacts studied were:
samples of a Byzantine wall painting from St. Neophytos, Cyprus
A series of 5 blue and 5 red pigment samples from the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos, the place of reclusion, in Paphos, Cyprus were analyzed to determine the pigments identity and possible alteration products. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Variable Pressure Scanning Electron Microscopy – Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (VPSEM-EDS), Polarized Light Microscope (PLM), and Binocular (stereo) Microscope (BM) were used to analyze the samples and due to the limitations of the techniques, only inconclusive assignments can be made on the pigments’ identity.
From elemental analysis it is suspected that the blue pigment is lapis lazuli and that there are two different red pigments which are cinnabar HgS and red lead (Pb3O4). However, without phase analysis of these samples, a positive identification cannot be made. Alteration of red to black and dark blue to light blue were observed for the samples analyzed. A possible alteration of Cinnabar is to metacinnabar. Documented alteration products of red lead are to plattnerite [β-PbO2] and anglesite [PbSO4]. Fading of lapis lazuli has been attributed to the breakdown of the Al-O-Si in the literature. However, it was not possible to verify if these are the alteration products with the available tools.
Fiber samples from a formative period mummy bundle from Tarapaca 40 in the Atacama desert of Chile were examined in an attempt to identify
them. Standards of human hair and alpaca were used for comparison. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) spectra were collected on the samples and standards. The morphology of the fibers and standards were examined using polarized light microscopy (PLM), scale casts and cross-sections. The spectra from the FT-IR analysis could not be used to differentiation between human and alpaca hair. Based on morphology, three samples were identified as camelid and two were tentatively identified as human.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA houses a collection of Japanese polychrome wooden masks. A pair of these masks, identified as “honomen” (gift or dedication mask), was attributed to the same maker based on their stylistic similarities. The museum records stated that the masks were dated to the 18-19th century and made in the style found in the Kyūshū region of Japan. However, neither the pairing nor provenance of the masks was supported by any textual or technical evidence.
The poster presented here summarizes the preliminary results from a comparative technical investigation on the Fowler masks, as a part of the research to answer the questions regarding the masks’ provenance and their paired attribution. Analytical techniques such as wood characterization, polarized light microscopy (PLM), x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), x ray diffraction (XRD), gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) and micro-chemical analysis using environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM-EDX) were used to determine the masks’ material composition and methods of manufacture. The analytical results, combined with studies on the masks’ context of use and iconographic origins, provided material evidence that the masks were manufactured in close association with one another, although there was no firm evidence to establish that they were indeed manufactured by the same hand. Furthermore, identifying vitreous pigments on one of the masks pushed the mask’s estimated date of manufacture to 19th-20th century. This finding also added knowledge to a class of pigment not widely used in the Japanese palette until modern times.
Built upon the analytical understanding of the Fowler masks’ material composition and present condition, the research project concluded with a conservation treatment to improve the long-term stability of the polychrome. The most urgent treatment priorities were stabilizing the fragile matte paint surface and locally reinforcing the structural defects on the masks. Due to time constraints, consolidation of the paint was performed only on the red mask. Major structural defects on both masks were reinforced by filling the cavities in the wood with a light-weight and mechanically-reversible fill made of rolled-up Japanese paper, capped with a light-weight putty made from Acryloid B-72 bulked with glass microballoons for a better seal. The fill was then inpainted with Liquitex acrylic emulsion paint to reduce the color contrast between the fill and the wood.
Check out this video made during the opening of the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program’s exhibition this spring. The exhibit, which was held at UCLA’s Young Research Library, featured Native American objects from the collection of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. Students from the class of 2010 worked on the objects as part of the course entitled “Ethnography and Conservation” taught by Prof. Ellen Pearlstein. In the video, Prof. Pearlstein and several of the students discuss the exhibit and the work undertaken researching and treating the objects, as well as preparing the exhibit itself.
On May 15th, the UCLA/Getty Program is staging an exhibition of Native American objects from the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum (ACCM) that were treated by current and past conservation students. The objects were conserved as part of the course “Ethnography and Conservation” taught by Prof. Ellen Pearlstein where students work on a range of objects from ACCM’s collection in consultation with tribal members. This is the first exhibit created by the conservation program featuring the treatments and material studies the students undertook as part of their lab work for the course. It provides a great opportunity for the wider UCLA community to learn what conservation is and what type of work the students undertake in the program, as well as learn about these amazing objects and the collection of the Agua Caliente Museum.
Securing an ivory figurine to a mount using monofilament. Object on display courtesy of ACCM
The objects will be exhibited in a wall case in the lobby and exhibition area of the Young Research Library at UCLA. Early preparations for the exhibit involved the creation of a micro-climate for the case in order to create the appropriate environmental conditions to exhibit the objects made primarily of organic materials. The main goal of this stage of the preparations was to create and maintain a constant relative humidity (RH) within the case of 50% using conditioned silica gel. The case then had to be sealed in order to reduce air exchange and any changes to the humidity levels within the case. The strange site of many stacked cartridges of silica gel within the exhibition case has peaked the interest of many visitors and library staff at YRL, even making the library’s blog.
Installation of an Apache basket into the exhibition case. Object on display courtesy of ACCM.
After introducing moisture into the case and monitoring conditions using a data logger, it appears that the RH has now reached 50% just in time for the installation of the objects this week. The exhibit opens on Friday, May 15th and runs through the end of June. If you find yourself on campus, make sure to stop by the lobby and exhibition area of YRL to check out the objects and the very informative didactic panels accompanying each object.
Welcome to the blog for the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. The purpose of this blog is to share news and events from our program to the greater conservation community, as well as to disseminate information on conservation and the program to the public and potential applicants. We will be posting information shortly on a wide range of activities, so please check back soon. You can also visit our website to find out more information on our program.
View of conservation training laboratory at Getty Villa