CONSERVING MODERN PAINTS
Shin Maekawa—a long-serving member of the GCI staff (1989–2016) and an integral part of the Institute’s work from its early days—passed away on July 21, 2016, after quietly enduring an extended illness.
A native of Japan, Shin came to California for his university studies. After receiving a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UCLA, he worked for over a decade as an engineer for an American defense company. In 1989, wanting a change, Shin left a promising career in defense to join the scientific staff of the GCI. He would spend the rest of his life engaged in conservation.
The breadth of Shin’s efforts at the Institute was considerable, as was the international character of the diverse work he undertook. From Egypt, to Honduras, to China, to Italy, to Brazil, Shin carried out a variety of projects. Early endeavors included the development of environmental monitoring stations designed to collect data that could aid in a heritage site’s conservation—stations that he continued to refine throughout his career. Early on he also engaged in nitrogen anoxia research, leading to the development of oxygen-free museum display cases that he first designed for use with the mummy collection in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and later for the Constitution of India documents in New Delhi.
Shin went on to spearhead research into collections in hot and humid environments, focusing on the development of economical and sustainable strategies to reduce biodeterioration of collections housed in historic buildings in hot and humid regions. This led to a significant follow-up project on alternative climate controls for historic buildings, applying the techniques he had previously developed. All this work culminated in the 2015 publication Environmental Management for Collections: Alternative Conservation Strategies for Hot and Humid Climates, which he coauthored. The book received the American Publishers 2016 PROSE Award for Environmental Science.
Shin’s work in the last few years of his life was emblematic of his career, in which his extensive expertise was applied in a variety of sites. He conducted environmental work at the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt, at Herculaneum in Italy, at the Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City in Beijing, and at the iconic midcentury Eames House in Los Angeles.
In the midst of his professional tasks, Shin furthered his own education, earning a PhD in conservation science from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2004. His hope, upon retirement from the GCI, was to teach.
Shin quietly took great pride in his work, telling colleagues that he was glad to be contributing to things in which he deeply believed. Indeed, his consistent dedication, quest for excellence, scientific creativity, and wry sense of humor were his hallmarks, characteristics greatly valued by the many conservation professionals who worked with Shin over a quarter of a century. His loss cuts deeply both professionally and personally. We offer our condolences to his wife Kayoko, his children David and Mika, and the rest of his family as we mourn the passing of one of our own.