Rock Art Conservation...in Mexico

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At a three-day meeting in April 1991 in La Paz, Mexico, the GCI presented a proposal for a pilot project on rock art conservation in Baja California to officials of the Instituto Nacional de Anthropologma e Historma and the Government of Baja California Sur. Representing the GCI at the meeting were the Institute's director, Miguel Angel Corzo, and Nicholas Stanley Price, Deputy Director of the GCI Training Program.

Many international experts regard Baja California's rock art, located in the central mountain ranges of the Baja California Peninsula, to be among the most important groupings of rock paintings in the world. The sites number in the hundreds, and the paintings' subjects run the gamut from the human, to the animal, to the abstract. The paintings are also extraordinary in size.

The GCI's involvement in conserving Baja California's rock art began in late 1988 when it participated in an expedition to study rock art sites in Baja California's Sierra de San Francisco. This was followed by its co-sponsorship of an international symposium in the spring of 1989 which included six days in the Sierra de San Francisco followed by two days of discussion of conservation recommendations in La Paz.

The proposed pilot project is designed to help protect the area's important rock art sites which have experienced deterioration as the result of human and natural causes. The program would also provide on-site training in rock art conservation for Mexican conservators. This project is part of the GCI's continuing commitment to develop improved site management and protection strategies for cultural property located in exposed environments.

...and in the United States

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During April and early May 1991, the GCI conducted a four week training project at Painted Rock, an important rock art site 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

This field project had two objectives: improving the visual aspect of the site by removing graffiti from the rock surface; and providing supervised field experience for conservators who have completed the one-year diploma course organized by the GCI and the University of Canberra on rock art conservation.

Leading the project was Andrew Thorn, a private conservator in Australia who is a specialist in graffiti removal techniques. Course participants included conservators from New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, South Africa and the United States.

Painted Rock has been the location of two previous GCI training projects. An April 1988 course on rock art conservation and an April 1989 course on rock art site management both resulted in recommendations concerning the site's management. These recommendations are now being implemented by the Bureau of Land Management, the public agency responsible for the site.

The 1991 project was the first to make substantial improvements to the visual impact of Painted Rock through the reduction of graffiti.

A Conservation Thesaurus

The lack of standard conservation terminology for multidisciplinary concepts has continued to hamper the management of information relating to conservation research and practice.

In an effort to standardize conservation vocabulary, the GCI's Documentation Program and the Getty Art History Information Program's Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) began collaborating in 1990 on a conservation thesaurus. This joint project has several goals: enhancing the conservation perspective within the AAT (the first edition of which was published in 1990); utilizing AAT research on conservation terminology; assisting in the production of the cumulative and volume subject indexes of Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (AATA); and, finally, creating an important tool for all engaged in managing conservation information.

Work on a first draft of the thesaurus began in January 1991, and was reviewed by the project's review panel in August. A prototype of the thesaurus is expected to be available for professional review sometime in 1992.

The review panel is composed of Thomas Chase, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution; Elizabeth Fitzhugh, Editor, the Journal of the American Institute of Conservation; Walter Henry, Stanford University Library; Carolyn Rose, Museum of Cultural History, Smithsonian Institution; Joyce Hill Stoner, Art Conservation Program, University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum; George Wheeler, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Jessica Brown, AATA Managing Editor; Kathleen McDonnell, Acting Documentation Program Director, the GCI; and Dagmar Jaunzems and Toni Petersen, Manager and Director of the AAT respectively.