By Joan Weinstein and staff of the Getty Foundation
As the philanthropic arm of the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Getty Foundation supports the fields in which the Getty is active by making grants in the areas of scholarship, conservation, and education. Since 1984 this commitment has translated into funding for more than four thousand projects in one hundred eighty countries on every continent. Through core program areas and special initiatives, we seek to strengthen professional leadership, increase access to knowledge in the visual arts, and improve the practice of conservation.
Providing support for conservation projects has always been one of the priorities of the Getty Foundation. Each year approximately one-third of our funds is dedicated to the conservation of objects in museum collections and to the preservation of historic buildings and landscapes, as well as to conservation training and professional development. Through grants to professional organizations, we also bring together conservation professionals from around the world to share expertise, exchange ideas, and build community. In addition, many of our special initiatives focus on issues in conservation, such as our Campus Heritage grants, which assist colleges and universities in the United States in planning for the preservation of their significant historic buildings, sites, and landscapes.
To achieve our goals, we rely on an extensive network of conservation professionals. This network begins with our professional staff and includes colleagues in the other Getty programs, who deepen and expand our knowledge of the conservation field. We also benefit enormously from the advice of hundreds of conservation experts around the world, who help assess the proposals that we receive each year by serving as peer reviewers or advisory committee members.
Over the years, we have supported the efforts of hundreds of dedicated individuals and organizations working to preserve the world's cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations. The projects are diverse and span the globe; they range from preventive conservation for museums in sub-Saharan Africa to research and treatment of an outdoor sculpture by Louise Nevelson in Philadelphia, and from preservation of Sir Ernest Shackleton's hut in Cape Royds, Antarctica, to historic preservation in Los Angeles. The common thread that runs through all these projects is an emphasis on research and planning—the crucial behind-the-scenes work that is often overlooked yet is essential to the success of any project. Most grant-funded projects also incorporate a significant training component, designed to enhance professional skills, reinforce sustainability, or promote the practice of conservation in a region or discipline.
The pages that follow highlight just a few of the conservation projects that recently received Foundation grants as part of our efforts to support the conservation community in its important work. We look forward to continuing our work with colleagues at home and abroad to advance the practice of conservation.
Joan Weinstein, Interim Director
The Getty Foundation
Museum Conservation Grants
Research and Treatment
The National Textile Museum in Thimphu, Bhutan, holds an extraordinary collection of traditional Bhutanese textiles. A grant to the Friends of Bhutan's Culture in Washington, D.C., in 2003 supported a conservation survey of this important collection and provided crucial conservation training to museum staff. Grant funds allowed a consulting conservator to visit the museum for five weeks to evaluate the storage needs and conservation requirements of the entire collection. In addition to basic training in textile conservation techniques, staff received training in preventive conservation, treatment documentation, pest management, and environmental monitoring. A second grant in 2005 extended the conservation survey to include thangkas, Buddhist religious paintings on cloth that are a significant component of Bhutanese artistic and religious tradition. As part of this grant, conservators provided additional training for museum staff as well as for monks, who are responsible for the care of textile treasures housed in Bhutanese monasteries.
Museum conservation grants awarded by the Foundation have also supported projects that extend beyond intervention to include interdisciplinary research about materials, manufacture, or historic context. At the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, a collaborative conservation treatment project is in progress to preserve the museum's seventeenth-century Mazarin chest, one of the foremost examples of Japanese export lacquer (urushi) in the world. Made of black-lacquered wood, the chest is sumptuously decorated with scenes from The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Soga Brothers. The lavish ornamentation includes metal inlay, mother-of-pearl, carved gold and silver figures, and gilded copper corner and lock plates. Centuries of exposure to light as well as cyclical changes in temperature and relative humidity have caused a gradual deterioration in the chest's condition, and poor adhesion of its lacquer and decorations made it too fragile to display. To remedy this situation, conservators at the V&A brought together an interdisciplinary team, including art historians, conservation scientists, and conservators from Japan. As they study the aging characteristics of urushi surfaces exposed to various light sources and changing humidity cycles, they also seek to develop an integrated approach that respects both modern international conservation ethics and traditional Japanese conservation values.
Training and Professional Development
Museum Professionals in Southeast Asia
Degree Programs in Conservation Training
Three recent Getty-funded projects have focused on training and professional development for photograph conservators. Photo conservation is a relatively recent field of specialization, and there has been increasing awareness of the need for skilled professionals who can recognize and address the unique characteristics and patterns of deterioration of different photographic processes.
Four years ago, the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material received Getty support for midcareer training workshops for photograph conservators in Australia and the Pacific region. More than one hundred ninety professionals participated in workshops conducted over three years that focused on preventive photo conservation, color photography and digital print conservation, and traditional photographic and digital methods for duplication.
A 2005 grant to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts, provides support for a three-year training exchange program in photography conservation for midcareer professionals from Eastern Europe. Intensive training sessions at NEDCC combine formal classroom sessions, hands-on practice in the laboratory, and visits to photographic collections. After each monthlong course in Andover, NEDCC provides follow-up training in Bratislava, Slovakia, at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. The goal of the program is to build the expertise of a group of conservation leaders who can teach photographic conservation in their respective countries. To date, conservators from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia have participated in the program.
This year the University of Delaware was awarded a Getty grant to support a two-week photograph preservation institute in the Middle East, to advance the practice of photo conservation in the region. Working in partnership with the Fondation Arabe pour l'Image, a nonprofit foundation in Lebanon dedicated to promoting and preserving photography in the Middle East, the program will provide participants with a basic understanding of preventative care issues, the importance of risk assessment, best practices in photograph preservation, and the technological developments of photography. Just as important, the institute will allow the stewards of collections in the region to establish international professional relationships, which may foster future collaboration and support.
In the area of professional development, ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) in Rome, received support in 2004 for CollAsia, a seven-year initiative to help museums in Southeast Asia develop appropriate conservation strategies to care for their collections. With Getty support for the initial phase of the program, ICCROM developed two workshops for heritage professionals from the region. The first took place in Leiden, the Netherlands, and focused on textile conservation; the second, held in Manila, the Philippines, addressed collections storage needs. All program activities have been planned and implemented in partnership with heritage institutions in the participating countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Grant funds are also supporting the participation of museum staff in scientific conferences, the translation of resource materials in national languages, and a field project in Vietnam.
The Foundation also provides support to strengthen graduate degree programs in conservation training to augment an institution's ability to train the next generation of conservators. At the Art Conservation Program of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, a Getty grant allowed for the upgrade of thirty-year-old laboratory equipment. Funds were used to acquire teaching stereomicroscopes and other instruments needed to train the program's graduate students. The new microscopes and attached monitors make it possible to demonstrate particular features of a work of art to an entire class, generating group discussion and enhancing the faculty's ability to interact effectively with its students.
While the Foundation occasionally funds implementation projects in architectural conservation, the majority of our resources are devoted to the development of comprehensive conservation plans, which are fundamental to the success of conservation projects. In 2005 the Getty awarded a grant to the Universidad Politecnica de Puerto Rico for the preparation of a comprehensive preservation plan for the Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud in San Juan. Constructed of rubble masonry and brick, the Spanish colonial-style chapel dates to the second half of the eighteenth century and is situated on the southern portion of the city walls. The planning project included new historical research on the chapel, a condition assessment of the historic fabric of the building, and chromochronology—the study of paint history on surfaces—to confirm the previous existence of decorative patterning on the facade. As part of the project, participating students from the Universidad Politecnica and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Program in Historic Preservation received training in architectural drawing and conditions assessment.
Training was also a key component of a 2004 architectural conservation implementation project at the Villa Jeanneret-Perret, known as La Maison Blanche. Located in the hills of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, La Maison Blanche was designed by Le Corbusier at the age of twenty-four. Created for his parents, the house demonstrates the architect's early interest in structural rationalism. After years of private ownership and benign neglect, a multidisciplinary team of specialists recently completed restoration of the house to its original appearance. The project involved treatment of the facades, replacement of roof tiles with ones modeled on the originals, treatment of historic interior finishes and linoleum floors, and floor reinforcement. Graduate and postgraduate students in conservation, architecture, and art history from schools in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Zurich, Geneva, and Fribourg participated in the project, using the house as a case study for issues surrounding the conservation of Modern architecture. The Association La Maison Blanche has published the results of the project and their training strategies and has hosted events to disseminate their research to specialists and the general public.
More information about Getty Foundation grants can be found on the Getty Web site.
The following Getty Foundation staff contributed to this article:
Antoine Wilmering, program officer
Conservation Resources at the Getty
Conservation Collection in the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) The Conservation Collection includes approximately 30,000 titles and 45,000 volumes, including over 750 serial subscriptions.
Conservation-Related Material in the Research
Library of the GRI
The library houses special conservation-related collections—among them, the archive of F. Weber & Company, photographs and treatment notes from conservator William Suhr, and approximately 1,300 items from the Franklin Institute Library.
Bibliographies produced for the GCI's conservation projects are available, free of charge, for browsing, searching, printing, and downloading.
GCI Information Center
Conservation information specialists provide expertise and support to conservation staff throughout the Getty and to conservation professionals worldwide.
PDF Publications on the Web
Books, reports, guidelines, short papers, bibliographies, and glossaries published by the GCI are available without charge and are searchable by title, author, or category of material.
Reference Collection in GCI Science
The GCI Science department has assembled a database of over 9,000 reference materials for use in the analysis of art objects.