In 1996 the Getty Conservation Institute created a five-year strategic plan designed to guide the Institute's activities into the next century. Contained within that strategic plan are five goals. These encompass:
- a dedication to the exploration and generation of new ideas, information,knowledge, and applications in the field of conservation;
- an emphasis on research in the conservation of cultural heritage;
- public recognition of the importance of cultural heritage and the needs and opportunities for its protection;
- excellence in education and in the exchange and dissemination of relevant information and knowledge;
- staff excellence.
Since the completion of its strategic plan, the Institute has been developing a series of new projects that specifically address the goals that the GCI has set for itself. In this section of the newsletter, we look briefly at each of those new projects.
By Marta de la Torre
In ancient Greek cities, the agora was the public square or marketplace that served as a meeting ground for citizens for their daily religious, political, social, and commercial activities. The name, first found in the works of Homer, connotes both the assembly of the people as well as a physical setting.
At the Getty Conservation Institute, the Agora is a new interdisciplinary activity designed to explore, generate, and advance innovative ideas about the preservation of cultural heritage and its conservation worldwide. The GCI's Agora creates a place—both literally and figuratively—for establishing a dialogue among individuals from the many fields and groups that affect cultural heritage and its conservation.
The integration of heritage issues into the social agenda of the 21st century is a requirement for the successful and sustainable preservation of cultural resources. The Agora is charged with creating interdisciplinary exchanges where new forms of comprehensive and integrated thinking about cultural heritage can emerge and where the complex social, political, and economic issues raised by its protection are explored and debated. A new discourse, in the sense of interchange of ideas and in the formal and orderly expression of thought on a subject, is necessary to create innovative visions of cultural heritage. The GCI has established the Agora as a place where this discourse can start to take shape and where new strategies can be explored.
The objectives of the Agora are:
- to enhance general understanding of the values of cultural heritage and its role in human and societal development;
- to explore the philosophical and ethical issues and the social, economic, and technological forces influencing cultural heritage conservation;
- to encourage and support interdisciplinary collaboration to create new ideas;
- to broaden and sustain an international, multidisciplinary community concerned with heritage conservation issues.
The activities of the Agora will be symposia, research and information management, and a scholars program. The symposia will involve groups of invited participants from various fields meeting to examine high-priority topics of interest; these meetings will emphasize discussion and exchange of information and can take the form of conferences, seminars, or workshops. Activities in the area of research and information management will analyze and synthesize existing data, as well as generate new ideas and information, and result in commissioned studies, case histories, and background papers. Agora scholars—individuals who wish to interact with specialists from other fields and who are eager to go beyond the prevailing boundaries of academic disciplines to find creative approaches to problems confronting the heritage community around the world—will be in residence at the Getty Center in Los Angeles for six months to one year.
To a large extent, the impact of the Agora on conservation policy and practice will depend on the attention and interest that other cultural agencies and organizations, as well as other disciplines, give to the ideas it produces. All of the ideas and concepts generated by Agora activities will be broadly disseminated in order to encourage further discourse.
Over the last few months, the Agora has organized two meetings to consult interdisciplinary groups about organizational and programmatic issues. The forthcoming activities of the Agora will focus on the exploration of the values and benefits derived from cultural heritage by various communities and groups; the sociopolitical and economic forces that have an impact on our cultural heritage and determine the conditions of its survival; and the major trends emerging in the world today and their effect on the protection of cultural heritage.
The Legacy of 20th-Century Art
By Tracy Bartley
Today artists are creating a legacy of our time with works that are traditional, mixed media, ephemeral, repeatable, and disposable. Artists incorporate paint, polyethylene, paper, cloth, and photographs into their work, challenging the boundaries of materials through the creative process.
Will the work produced by contemporary artists be around for future generations to understand and appreciate? Do we have an obligation to the future to provide a comprehensive record of 20th-century art? While there have been conferences in the past that have dealt with the preservation of contemporary art, they have usually focused on only one or two topics and have been geared toward curators, art historians, or conservators.
In March 1998 the GCI will broaden the exploration of these issues with its conference "Mortality Immortality? The Legacy of 20th-Century Art." The conference, to be held at the Getty Center, will bring together artists, directors, curators, conservators, historians, educators, students, dealers, collectors, archivists, philosophers, lawyers, and scientists to discuss and debate the preservation issues surrounding contemporary art. Philosophical, ethical, art-historical, and technological issues—as well as economic factors—will be confronted, and inherent problems will be illuminated. The conference will offer a forum to enhance understanding of the problems associated with the preservation of contemporary art—from the treatment and handling of traditional works to the difficulties posed by an aesthetic that is expressed through the use of new materials and technology.
As the 20th century becomes history, as opposed to the time in which we live, the moment is right to assess what our cultural legacy will be—and how it will survive.
Identification of Organic Materials
Natural organic materials have enjoyed a long history of use by artists and craftspersons as binding media, varnishes, and adhesives. Artists still employ materials such as drying oils, eggs, milk, animal hides, tree resins, waxes, and plant gums in their creative endeavors. Identification of these substances in objects of art and artifacts deepens our understanding of artists' materials and painting techniques and aids conservators in the development of appropriate preservation practices.
Scientists at the GCI have developed a number of procedures that employ gas chromatography as a tool for identifying extremely small samples of paint and varnish removed from art and artifacts. One novel procedure permits the simultaneous detection of proteins, oils, waxes, and resins in a single sample—the "powr" method. Currently GCI scientists are developing a technique for the identification of plant gums to be used in conjunction with the powr method for complete characterization of the organic materials in paint. The final analytical procedure will be validated by testing modern samples of paint and varnish mixtures prepared using historic recipes.
To aid in the dissemination of the analytical procedures, Institute researchers will be working with colleagues from international museum research laboratories to study significant works of art that, to date, have not been analyzed due to the lack of suitable techniques. It is anticipated that this collaborative research will have major consequences for the way that painted objects are examined, analyzed, and treated in the future.
Preservation of Porous Calcareous Stone
By Eric Doehne
Limestone sculpture, monuments, and structures are vulnerable to a wide range of decay processes. While a great deal of research has concentrated on the effects of air pollution, this factor is not the only, or even the principal, cause of the decay of stone materials. Moreover, there are currently few effective conservation solutions for limestone preservation.
The aim of this research project is to elucidate the important mechanisms by which three substances—soluble salts, water, and intrinsic clays—cause damage to porous calcareous stones, in order to develop appropriate and specific conservation methods to mitigate these problems. The development of this base of knowledge will lead to the design and evaluation of preventive and minimally invasive conservation methods to slow the decay rate of porous calcareous stones resulting from the action of water, salts, and swelling clays.
The project currently has three objectives: (1) a comprehensive model for salt damage and the important factors that control it, (2) an integrated, critical evaluation of the current knowledge of these decay mechanisms, and (3) a detailed understanding of the rapid decay due to expansive clays (i.e., in Egyptian limestone sculpture from the Nile Valley regions). Future work will concentrate on developing these areas of inquiry and using the information gained to design innovative solutions for the conservation of porous calcareous stone.
Conservation of Earthen Architecture in Archaeological Sites
William S. Ginell
From antiquity, structures fabricated from earth have been widely used throughout the world. Walls made from dried mud bricks or dampened packed earth have survived centuries of weathering when protected from water and maintained regularly. Lacking this protection, earthen architecture soon deteriorates and once again becomes soil. Newly excavated earthen architecture that is found in good condition suffers the same fate when left exposed and unprotected from rain and surface water and other natural forces.
Since the late 1980s, the GCI has been studying ways to contribute to the preservation of earthen structures. To determine the critical factors involved in the deterioration of these structures and to develop methods to solve their conservation problems, the GCI has initiated a complex research project. The project will review existing information on the conservation of earthen architecture and work with experts in the field to formulate a plan to identify the processes responsible for the deterioration of earthen structural materials. The processes will be elucidated; this will be followed by laboratory and field-related tests to establish relationships between the composition, the physical properties and environment, and the stability of these materials. Conservation technologies and procedures will be developed prior to testing at field sites. An important component of the project will be training of specialists in the field.
Collections in Hot and Humid Climates
Kathleen Dardes and James Druzik
Museum collections in hot and humid climates experience environmental conditions that make them unique among the collections of the world. Higher-than-average levels of relative humidity, temperature, and light accelerate deterioration while exacerbating the damage caused by air pollution, handling, and biological attack. Objects in these collections have shorter life spans from natural aging, are more likely to be harmed by fungal growth, and are prone to mechanical damage. These problems are difficult to combat without very skillful and systematic techniques. Frequently, small institutions couple these environmental stresses with low levels of financial and human resources.
The GCI is undertaking a multiyear project to investigate the environmental problems associated with collections in museums, libraries, historic houses, and churches in hot and humid climates. The project's objective is the identification of viable and locally sustainable strategies for mitigating environmentally induced deterioration to collection materials. This project will be interdisciplinary in nature and will consider problems and solutions relating to the museum environment on both the macrolevel (the museum building) and the microlevel (enclosed spaces within the building).
The GCI anticipates that this project will have a global impact and will serve the interests of the custodians of museum collections in areas of the world where both human and financial resources may be limited. The project will draw heavily on the advice of individual and organizational collaborators with long experience in dealing with the environmental problems of collections in hot and humid climates. The findings of the project should also have application to collections experiencing short periods of hot and humid conditions in otherwise temperate climates.
Research on Site Reburial
By Martha Demas
Exposure of archaeological remains to the environment is often a leading factor in the deterioration of those remains. Slowing that deterioration process is a critical conservation challenge for those attempting to maintain cultural heritage that is left open to the elements. In recent years, the full or partial reburial of archaeological sites has been increasingly accepted as an important method for preserving archaeological resources. There is a new awareness among archaeologists and cultural resource managers that reburial, on a temporary or permanent basis, is an obvious and practical solution to conserving sites. Because of this development, there is a growing need for information about the best methods and materials for reburial.
Building on the GCI's experience in reburial research, testing, and implementation at the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and at Laetoli, Tanzania, the site of 3.6-million-year-old hominid footprints, the Institute is developing a program to address issues surrounding the reburial of archaeological sites. The aim of the project is to advance the state of knowledge of reburial methods and to provide the conservation profession with practical guidelines for reburial. The project will be integrated with other field projects of the GCI, such as the one studying in situ conservation of mosaics, where reburial is an appropriate protective strategy.
Laser Cleaning Research
By Dusan Stulik and Herant Khanjian
Surface cleaning of museum art objects, monuments, and architecture is one of the most frequently performed tasks in conservation. In recent years, interest has developed in the use of noncontact methods of treatment, because of the fragility of some surfaces and the relative invasiveness of traditionally used mechanical and chemical cleaning methods. For this reason, the use of laser technology for surface cleaning of everything from museum objects to building facades has grown steadily. As a noncontact treatment, laser-assisted cleaning is considered a highly desirable methodology applicable to a variety of art materials and situations. However, this promising and rapidly advancing technology has some important limitations, and there are instances in which laser cleaning would not be advisable because the concentrated energy that lasers focus on a small area may alter the character of a material. At this moment, there are many more examples of laser cleaning applications to different situations than there are rigorous systematic studies of the potential for damage that can result from the use of laser technology.
The purpose of the GCI's laser cleaning project is to review existing knowledge about laser cleaning and laser-induced damage, not only in the art conservation literature but also in related sciences. The resulting critical review of the field will allow the identification of major gaps in the theoretical understanding of laser cleaning processes and their practical limitations. This knowledge will provide conservators with the necessary information for the appropriate application of laser-assisted cleaning in conservation treatments. The project will involve collaboration with other conservation research institutions, laser and materials research centers, and conservators experienced in various aspects of laser cleaning. The GCI will provide professional expertise for materials characterization and for the evaluation of laser-induced damage.
Surface Cleaning Research
By Valerie Dorge
One of the most significant problems of current conservation practice is the surface cleaning of museum artifacts and architectural features. In cleaning an object, a conservator removes certain materials from the surfaces—such as accumulated dirt, aged varnish, or past restorations—while leaving other surfaces (for example, an original pictorial layer) untouched. However, many of the solvents used for cleaning do not enable a conservator to control surface cleaning with the desired precision.
A number of new cleaning systems that permit greater control have been developed for application to conservation by Richard Wolbers of the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. These systems—which include mixtures in gel rather than in liquid form—were first presented to the conservation community through courses organized by the GCI. While these systems are now being widely used by conservators internationally, the cleaning procedures involved in their use continue to raise some concerns because of a lack of understanding regarding the potential for damage to treated surfaces.
The objective of this research project is to answer a number of practical and theoretical questions surrounding these cleaning systems. The questions relate to the actions of the different components in the mixtures, the dynamics of the cleaning mechanisms, and the type and amount of residues remaining on surfaces and their potential contribution to further deterioration. This project is a collaboration between the GCI, the Winterthur Museum, and the Program in Art Conservation at the University of Delaware.
Preservation of Lime Mortars and Plasters
By Eric Hansen
Lime mortars and plasters, made from the heating and processing of calcareous materials, are the most common binding and surface components found in archaeological and historical buildings throughout the world.
Although these mortars and plasters were produced from the same basic substance, their production methods and applications varied based upon the geology of the area and the cultural context. Understanding their complex properties and how they deteriorate is crucial to developing methods of preservation and repair.
A series of collaborative efforts to provide some solutions is planned. In conjunction with scientific colleagues in Latin America and Europe, the GCI is developing improved methods for characterizing the materials, ranking the usefulness of existing analytical methods, and incorporating new or less frequently used techniques. The properties and conditions of historic materials are being studied to determine how their composition and structure relate to their physical state. Conclusions regarding the most important factors in their deterioration will be confirmed through the study of laboratory-produced model materials. Methodologies to prepare formulas for lime-based materials tailored to specific conservation applications will be proposed.
This project will provide strong support to other GCI projects—among them the conservation of Maya sites and of mosaics in situ in the Mediterranean region.
By Mahasti Afshar
To help raise public awareness of the importance of cultural heritage and the needs and opportunities for its protection worldwide, in the fall of 1998 the GCI will present Landmarks, a public exhibition at the Getty Center, along with related events.
Over the past five years, the Institute asked young people from diverse backgrounds, in five cities around the world, to photograph designated heritage sites and their personal neighborhood landmarks and to comment on their relevance to their own and other people's lives. The project in each city—Los Angeles, Cape Town, Mumbai (Bombay), Mexico City, and soon Paris—has culminated in a major exhibition with an accompanying catalogue and video.
From September 10 to November 29, 1998, selections from all five exhibitions will be presented at the Getty Center in a series of mixed-media installations, along with video and film screenings, Web sites, music, and special events. Many of the teenaged "Landmarks ambassadors" who took the photographs will be on hand for the opening of the exhibition.
While conventional conservation efforts have emphasized well-known architectural and cultural monuments, this project broadens the definition of the word landmarks to include the personal as well as the monumental, and it advocates a new international movement to mobilize public support for conservation. The goal of the landmarks projects and the exhibition is to encourage people to participate actively in preserving the archaeological, historical, and contemporary expressions of human history.
Information and Communication
Latin American Consortium for Preventive Conservation Training
By Valerie Dorge
The Getty Conservation Institute has launched an initiative to create a consortium of training institutions in Latin America interested in promoting preventive conservation research, education, or practice in the region. The consortium will provide a mechanism through which its members can collaborate in the development of preventive conservation training courses, workshops, materials, and methods that are suited to the needs and priorities of museums in Latin America. The consortium will also function as a network of preventive conservation training specialists through the sharing of information and expertise and through the development of regional teaching resources. All institution members of the consortium are currently involved in preventive conservation activities and have made a long-term commitment to regional collaboration.
An initial project meeting was held at the GCI in October 1997 to set an agenda for the consortium and to discuss possible avenues for developing and implementing preventive conservation training in the region. The meeting was attended by representatives from the following organizations: Centro de Conservação e Restauração Bens Culturais Moveis (CECOR), Brazil; Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos, Centro Nacional de Conservación y Restauración, and the Escuela de Arte, Pontificia Universidad Católica, Chile; Centro Nacional de Restauración, Instituto Colombiano de Cultura (COLCULTURA), and the Fundación Universidad Externado de Colombia, Columbia; Centro Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museología, Cuba; and the Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía, Mexico.
Didactic Materials Development
By Kathleen Dardes
This project will focus on the production of didactic materials to complement and support areas of interest and project activities of the GCI. A major part of the work will be the development of didactic materials for archaeological conservation and preventive conservation in museums. The project will consider ways in which materials that have already been created by the GCI for previous training activities can be adapted for use by a broader teaching audience. To make these materials appropriate for present and future training initiatives, the Institute will work in close consultation with educators in the fields of archaeological conservation and preventive conservation. Wherever possible, the GCI will look to new electronic technologies as a means of making these materials widely available.
One of the tasks in the project's initial phase will be to develop a series of didactic materials that will support the goals and activities of the Institute's project on collections in hot, humid climates. These materials are likely to include written guidelines for museums located in those regions for assessing the overall condition of their collections and buildings and for developing conservation strategies appropriate to their collections, their buildings, their organizational structures, and their regional resources.
GCI Web Site
By Julie Radoyce
Since the invention of movable type, nothing has had the same impact on researchers, scholars, students, or the general public as the electronic transmission of information. With the launching of the GCI home page on the World Wide Web in August 1996, the Institute took the first step in capitalizing on this versatile and expanding communications tool.
As part of an overall GCI strategy—which will continue to include traditional means of communication such as book publishing, the newsletter, and journal articles written by staff—the Web site will enhance the Institute's ability to provide timely, accurate, and up-to-date information. Because transmitting information over the Web is so cost effective, the GCI plans to use the site to provide more information to all its audiences, including conservation professionals, heritage managers and owners, decision makers, and the general public. The intent is to increase interactivity and communication with the conservation community and the public, and to provide information that will enhance collaboration and research in conservation and related fields.
The GCI's Web site (http://www.getty.edu/conservation) currently includes information on the Institute's mission, back issues of the GCI newsletter in English and Spanish, abstracts of all the scientific research undertaken at the Institute, and links to other cultural heritage-related sites. New components to the site will be added over time.
Wall Paintings of the Mogao Grottoes
By Francesca Piqué
In 1989 the GCI began collaborating with the State Bureau of Cultural Relics (SBCR) of the People's Republic of China on the conservation of the Mogao grottoes, an ancient Buddhist site in the Gobi Desert in northwest China. The project addressed environmental and other problems afflicting the site.
In a follow-up to that effort, the GCI is collaborating on a new project with the SBCR and with the Dunhuang Academy, the cultural authority that oversees the Mogao grottoes. The aim of the project is to identify, study, and solve problems relating to the conservation of the wall paintings at Mogao, which are similar to many other paintings found at sites along the Silk Road. The collaboration will include the involvement of technical, scientific, and conservation personnel from Chinese regional institutions and from other Silk Road sites.
The project involves the development of conservation solutions for the preservation of the wall paintings at Mogao. Direct intervention and preventive conservation measures will be undertaken in two grottoes. Aspects of the project include scientific study, environmental monitoring, wall paintings conservation, and visitor management. Its intent is to promote good conservation practices through collaborative, informal training throughout the project. The work will be undertaken largely by the Dunhuang Academy staff and regional personnel, under the direction of the joint project team. As necessary, the GCI will support the project by providing expertise and scientific and analytical methodology. The design of conservation interventions will be a joint responsibility.
Conservation of the Main Retable, Church of Santo Domingo, Yanhuitlán, Mexico
By Valerie Dorge
The main retable of the Church of Santo Domingo in Yanhuitlán is one of the most important examples of the art and architecture of Mexico's colonial period. Over 19 meters high, the retable was originally made in the late 1500s and then modified in the early 1700s. It is constructed of gilded and painted wood and contains a large number of sculptures and paintings. At present, it is in urgent need of stabilization because of damage suffered mainly from earthquakes but also from general deterioration and lack of proper maintenance. Recent efforts to stabilize the retable by adding support and bracing structures to its back have not been fully successful.
The aim of this project—which is a collaboration between the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia of Mexico, the GCI, and the community of Yanhuitlán—is to stabilize and conserve the retable so that it can continue to function in the church, which remains a community focal point. The project is intended to serve as a model for the conservation of cultural heritage facing similar problems—that is, preservation of the heritage in areas of seismic activity with difficult accessibility and limited funding. The project provides an ideal learning opportunity for conservation students as well as for specialists in the research and conservation of retables. Members of the Yanhuitlán community will participate, so that when the retable is stabilized and conserved, the community itself will be able to take responsibility for its long-term maintenance and care.
Conservation of Mosaics In Situ
By Martha Demas
Throughout the Mediterranean region, mosaics constitute a shared cultural inheritance from Roman and Byzantine times. The prevalence of mosaics in the archaeological record and their importance as historic documents and artistic creations has ensured their prominence in the history of the region. Unfortunately, a vast number of these mosaics are at risk. There is an urgent need to determine common problems, to promote the exchange of information, and to unify efforts in exploring improved means of conserving these vestiges of the past.
In situ conservation of mosaics has emerged as an important trend and was the theme of the 1996 conference on mosaics in Cyprus, coorganized by the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics and the GCI. Underlying the conference was the recognition that mosaics are an integral part of a site and lose much of their meaning when they are removed from their original context. Conservation of mosaics in situ poses significant challenges that require an integrated and collaborative approach—an approach that includes consideration of the role management plays in conservation.
As part of the GCI's long-standing commitment to archaeological site conservation, the Institute is developing a regional project to address the problems of conserving floor mosaics in situ. In partnership with national authorities in the Mediterranean area, the project will build partly on the results of the May 1995 conference "Conservation of Archaeological Sites in the Mediterranean Region," organized by the GCI and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Research and fieldwork for the mosaics project will begin in Israel and Tunisia. Later, other regional collaborations will be developed.
Tel Dan Gate
By Lori Anglin
The Dan gate is a city gate dating to the Canaanite period in the 18th century B.C.E. It is among the earliest known examples of an arched structure and is built entirely of mud brick. Situated in the center of a fertile valley at the foot of Mount Hermon in northeast Israel, Tel Dan is one of the most important historic sites and nature reserves in the country. The gate, discovered less than two decades ago, is noteworthy not only because of its complete three arches and its historic significance, but also because of its excellent state of preservation. Remarkably, it was preserved almost completely intact due to burial with soil, thought to be carried out during the Bronze Age, when the ramparts of the city wall were enlarged.
The gate was first excavated by Israeli archaeologists in 1979. As with all archaeological excavations, the site was susceptible to deterioration once exposed. The gate is now protected by a large, modern shelter designed to retard the effects of weather. While this is a good preventive measure, there are still problems with slow erosion, structural cracking, insect and bird infestation, and deterioration as the result of other natural factors.
The Tel Dan project will begin with an assessment of the condition of the mud brick materials and the structure; it will then develop strategies for the gate's conservation, preservation, presentation, and maintenance. Work will be designed and carried out collaboratively with Israeli partners. The project complements and expands on the GCI's work on the development of viable methods for the conservation of earthen structures at archaeological sites.
By Lori Anglin
In the West African country of Mali, the historic city of Djenné is often described as the jewel. Home to an estimated 12,000 people, the city is internationally recognized for its outstanding and universal heritage value, and it has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list of cultural sites. Among its landmarks is the Great Mosque of Djenné, which towers over the city's two- and three-story buildings, all of which are constructed of earth by skilled masons.
While its architecture is a reminder of an important past, Djenné is alive with a dynamic present. In Mali's developing economy, a community's access to basic services—shelter, nutrition, water, and sanitation, for example—is a paramount concern. The welfare of the community, the development of economic opportunities, and the conservation of the cultural heritage of Djenné are all priorities that require attention and must coexist. The development of an urban plan is a first step.
Any planning effort requires collaboration. In the case of Djenné, the GCI is proposing to work with Malians and the World Bank to develop a plan for the city's long-term management, growth, and conservation. Well-designed strategies, with local direction and support, are essential to the plan's success. The GCI proposes to collaborate on the development of a vision for the future of Djenné and for the conservation of the city's remarkable cultural heritage—a vision that will encompass the aspirations and traditions of its people.
By Martha Demas
China has a vast and ancient heritage of archaeological sites, monuments, and places of cultural and historical significance that is increasingly under threat from rapid development and the pressure of tourism. Establishing national principles for the conservation and management of this heritage is the aim of a collaborative project that the GCI is coorganizing with the China National Institute for Cultural Property and the Australian Heritage Commission.
This project—Management Principles for the Conservation of Cultural Sites in China—will develop a set of principles and procedures for outdoor heritage conservation that reflects the diversity of Chinese culture and responds to the needs of the country. Undertaken with the participation of managers from a wide range of cultural sites throughout China, the development process will adapt the methodology that was followed by the Australian Heritage Commission when it created its exemplary conservation charter known as the Burra Charter in 1981.
By Giora Solar
For centuries, the hundreds of Maya archaeological sites in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have attracted scholars and visitors. Today many of the sites are being excavated and developed for tourism. Many more have remained intact or have been looted. All of them have experienced deterioration as a result of natural or human causes.
The Maya project, initiated by the GCI, has two objectives. The first is to solve some of the problems shared by all sites—including stone, stucco, and mortar deterioration, biodeterioration, and the sometimes negative impact of site shelters. This effort will involve extensive scientific research, with implementation as the ultimate goal. The second objective is to create a comprehensive regional management plan. The plan will cover issues of long-term planning for the conservation and use of the cultural heritage in its context. Addressing tourism, environmental issues, and economic development of the modern Maya and other communities in the region will be an integral part of the plan.
The start of the project follows a 1995 meeting organized by the GCI that identified some of the issues common to the region. A later meeting, in August 1997, focused on achieving a commitment from all the countries, as well as financial organizations such as the World Bank, to the project's ideas.
The project's main goal is to have a major impact on the conservation and management of sites in the region. This aim will be achieved only if the project involves simultaneous work on different aspects of cultural heritage issues and only if it becomes a truly international and interdisciplinary endeavor.
By Catherine Fritz
Maintaining and enhancing the skills and morale of the GCI staff are essential to the success of the Institute. The GCI is already gifted with a highly educated and experienced staff. The goal of the staff excellence project is to build on this base, recognize staff efforts, and impart a strong sense of belonging to all staff. As part of its tradition of supporting learning opportunities, the Institute is developing staff workshops, as well as ways to document and evaluate the effectiveness of these programs.
In March and April 1997, a series of focus groups was held with staff. The purpose of these sessions was to gather information on skills building, on unity and esprit de corps, and on professional enrichment, and to prioritize the issues and activities identified. These sessions indicated a staff desire to strengthen the GCI as a community, to acquire new skills, to promote teamwork, and to increase morale. Defining project teams, developing new staff performance evaluation procedures, and improving communication between the GCI's strategic management team and its staff were identified as priorities. The priorities in skill enhancement included workshops in team building, in management and leadership, and in effective communication.
The staff excellence team is initiating activities to address these issues. The project will support the current reorganization of the Institute to create a new structure that will implement the GCI's strategic plan.