Workshop 2017

Ateliergebouw, Amsterdam
May 15–19, 2017

This five-day workshop will explore newly developed analytical procedures for acquiring detailed compositional information about Asian lacquers, their additives, and their European substitutes. During the workshop, conservators and scientists will work together in research teams to study and discuss historic lacquer samples. It presents a unique opportunity for collaboration and discussion of topics such as the compositional variation in lacquered objects made in different countries and time periods, the relevance of analytical research to the conservation and interpretation, and the identification of research priorities and potential collaborations.

This workshop is a partnership of the Getty Conservation Institute, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and the Rijks Museum.

The workshop aims to:

demonstrate new analytical protocols and the level of information that can be gathered using these methods

provide participants with the tools necessary to use these methods, such as a marker compound database and custom data evaluation tools

highlight the benefits that collaboration between scientists and conservators can provide

identify pressing analytical and conservation issues in the field and priorities for future research

Instruction in the following low-tech and high-tech procedures will be provided with the aim of identifying traditional and non-traditional materials in Asian lacquers:

Visible and fluorescent light microscopic examination of chemically-stained lacquer cross-sections which can provide visual, layer-specific information for a number of organic materials

Precision sample collection of discrete lacquer layers which permits layer-specific compositional information to be obtained

Pyrolysis - gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry with thermally-assisted hydrolysis and methylation (TMAH-Py-GC/MS); a versatile method with excellent limits of detection

A systematic protocol for data analysis and interpretation using AMDIS (Automated Mass spectral Deconvolution and Identification System) and Excel, with a shared marker compound database that permits detection of a broad range of marker compounds even when present at trace levels

The concepts taught in the workshop may also be applied to the study of materials other than lacquer.

Michael Schilling: Senior Scientist and head of Materials Characterization Research at the Getty Conservation Institute, specializing in GC/MS and thermal analysis techniques

Arlen Heginbotham: Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum, specializing in the technical examination of furniture

Nanke Schellmann: independent conservator and researcher at SchellmannConservation in Munich, specializing in the conservation and analysis of mixed media objects and the characterization and treatment of degraded decorative surfaces.

Applicants should be conservators, scientists, or conservation scientists. Scientists should have an established record of using Py-GC/MS or GC/MS; familiarity with AMDIS and Excel is helpful. Experience in lacquer analysis is not required, although priority will be given to those with current or future projects involving the analysis of Asian lacquer. Conservators should have experience treating Asian lacquer and be familiar with its properties and production.

Scientists and conservators work in research teams of two during the workshop. Proposed partnerships are encouraged but not required. Proposed partnerships that include one scientist and one conservator will be given priority. Ideally, partners will be committed to future collaboration.

Conservators are asked to propose sample material from a specific lacquered object for potential use in the workshop, based on the following criteria:

object should be of significance within its collection and considered important from the historical and/or technological point of view

conservator should be confident that permission of the owner will be given to remove a sample of approximately 2x2mm from the object for destructive analysis

participant must ensure that permission is granted to present and discuss analytical results acquired during the workshop.

A limited number of proposed samples will be accepted for study in the workshop and conservators will be responsible for preparing these samples in advance of the workshop; specific instructions for sampling and documentation of sample will be provided to successful candidates.

The working language of the course is English.

The cost of the workshop is 550 euros, payable within 30 days of acceptance. Participants are responsible for all expenses associated with the workshop, including travel and lodging.

To Apply
Please complete the application* according to the instructions below. Applicants should prepare information in advance and be ready to complete, save, and email the form in one sitting.

Step 1: Download the PDF application form to your computer.

Step 2: Save the PDF file to your computer, using your last name as the file name (example: lacquers_2017). Do not flatten the file as this makes the interactive fields unreadable upon submission.

Step 3: Open the application form in Acrobat Reader only. Do not complete the form from within any browser window (Chrome, Safari, etc.) or in Preview (Mac users), as it will not be fully functional.

Step 4: Complete the form; save it; then email it, with any attachments, to with "Lacquers 2017 Application" in the subject line. Important: email the saved PDF; do not use the submit button.

Application deadline is January 31, 2017.


The final selection of applicants will be made by organizers according to the criteria outlined above. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application by February 13, 2017.

For questions about the workshop or application process, or for additional information, please contact

The Ateliergebouw (Atelier Building) is a center for restoration and preservation, scientific practice, research and education, where Dutch cultural heritage can be preserved and administered under the very best conditions. In the Atelier Building, the Rijks Museum, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, and the University of Amsterdam pool their knowledge of restoration and preservation. With this combination of research, teaching and practical application under one roof, this evolving center of expertise is unique, not only in the Netherlands, but worldwide.

*You will need Acrobat Reader version 8 or above to complete. Download latest version.

Page updated: October 2016