In September, GCI Chief Scientist Giacomo Chiari retired after serving for over ten years as the head of GCI Science.
Giacomo arrived at the Institute in 2003 from the University of Turin, where he was a full professor in applied mineralogy. While he was there, his research initially focused on crystallography, but over time his professional interests expanded to include science and cultural heritage conservation. After receiving a major grant for a cultural heritage project in 1988, he devoted himself full-time to conservation-related activities, which included a study of Maya blue that identified the pigment's compounds and geographic distribution. His research also included earthen architecture and treatments for decorated surfaces. Prior to joining the GCI, he spent the summer of 2001 at the Institute as a GCI Conservation Scholar.
As chief scientist, Giacomo not only oversaw GCI Science but also participated directly in scientific research. Besides serving as project leader for the Organic Materials in Wall Paintings project, he was part of a number of projects as a team member or adviser, including GCI's initial work at Herculaneum and research into injection grouts, desalination of porous building materials, and mosaics. In addition, he explored ways to enhance scientific instrumentation used in conservation. He spearheaded a cooperative venture to design and build a portable, noninvasive XRD/XRF that improved the quality of information obtainable from an art object without invasive sampling. He began the use of laser speckle interferometry in GCI projects to detect the presence of voids in walls due to delamination. And during his tenure, a computer tomography scanner was constructed at the GCI to record the interior details of small bronzes and sculptures. In addition, Giacomo modified the technology for imaging Egyptian blue pigment on mural paintings and ancient statues, making it portable; this technology was applied in work at Herculaneum and the tomb of Tutankhamen. He was also instrumental, over the last four years, in arranging for young graduate scientists from the University of Turin to spend a year working in the GCI laboratories. Another of his achievements was securing for the GCI Reference Collection a donation from retired University of Palermo professor Rosario Alaimo of over seven hundred fully documented and analyzed limestone and marble samples from all the known ancient quarries in Sicily.
In 2012 Giacomo was awarded a silver medal by the environmental and cultural heritage division of the Italian Chemical Society for his research in the field of cultural heritage.
While Giacomo has retired from the GCI, he plans to maintain his connection to conservation and to continue to carry out research related to the field. His GCI colleagues will very much miss regular contact with his humor, warmth, humanity, and passion for the task of conserving cultural heritage.