In July 1996 the Getty Conservation Institute, the Winterthur Museum, and the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation offered an intensive six-day course on analytical techniques for conservators, the first such course ever offered anywhere. It was held at the Winterthur Museum, with one session at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The course provided a general review of the major instrumental techniques, such as X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy, chromatography, and infrared spectroscopy. Also included was a review of techniques that conservators can carry out themselves, such as polarizing light microscopy and qualitative microanalysis, and an overview of sample collection and preparation steps required for specific analytical techniques. An important objective was to help conservators and scientists communicate more effectively. To achieve this, the introductory session included discussion of systematic approaches to analytical decisions, strategies for applying analyses to conservation problems, and interpretation of analytical data.
Sixteen conservators from six nations—Australia, Austria, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—attended the course. Aspects of the course that participants found particularly useful included the direct access to analytical instruments as well as to instructors with expertise in specific techniques and their use in conservation. For example, a number of analyses were run during the scanning electron microscopy session, allowing for valuable discussion among participants and instructors.
Following the course, attendee Linda Stiber, a senior paper conservator with the U.S. Library of Congress, wrote that "the course material has already been beneficial and useful," and that it "would be worthwhile to other conservators involved in analytical work."
Recognizing the demand for the information included in the course, the GCI is planning to use course materials as the basis of a future publication—the first reference source for conservators to cover all the main analytical techniques applicable to conservation.