Conservators and collectors have long been challenged by the unique structure of panel paintings and the historic variations and complex aging behaviors of their wood and paint. Today, few conservators have the experience necessary to address the increasingly complex conservation issues of these works. With this in mind, the Getty Conservation Institute, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Foundation have joined forces to develop a multiyear Panel Paintings Initiative designed to increase specialized training in the structural conservation of panel paintings and to advance the treatment of these works in collections around the world. The initiative will also raise awareness of related issues among painting and wood conservators, curators, and other museum professionals.

With the help of an international team of experts, the new initiative launched in February 2008 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Project development continued when team members met in Florence in June 2008 at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure—one of the few institutions that currently offers specialized training in panel paintings conservation. To better understand the extent of current challenges, the initiative will support an assessment to determine the conservation needs of panel paintings in museum collections, as well as document existing training opportunities and resources.

These findings will help shape the future direction of the initiative, which is expected to focus on expanding opportunities for specialized training and increasing the number of trained practitioners. Training strategies to be explored include postgraduate apprenticeships at conservation studios, master classes, and expert workshops, each with the goal of introducing conservators to a range of treatment approaches and of developing a greater understanding of regional and historic variations in such treatments across the field. New strategies for sharing information will also be examined.

An international symposium on panel paintings conservation is planned for May 17—18, 2009, at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The symposium will offer a platform for exploring this rich and challenging topic with experts from around the world. Sessions will address developments in research and conservation of panel paintings, future needs of the field, and related topics such as exhibition considerations and the results of specific treatment projects.

In 1995 the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Museum hosted a landmark symposium on the topic; the symposium proceedings, The Structural Conservation of Panel Paintings, has become a standard reference on the subject. By building on these earlier efforts and addressing ongoing challenges, the Getty's new initiative hopes to advance both the understanding and the interdisciplinary practice of panel paintings conservation.

Advisory Committee:

George Bisacca (cochair)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Jørgen Wadum (cochair)
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Simon Bobak
Simon Bobak Studios, London

Marco Ciatti
Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence

Ian McClure
Yale University Art Museum, New Haven, Connecticut (formerly at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)

Paul van Duin
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam