Robert Smithson's iconic earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) is a 1,500 foot long and 15 foot wide coil of local basalt rock and earth that extends into the red waters of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. In a 1972 interview, Smithson suggests that Spiral Jetty was intended to both withstand and be "intimately involved with the climate changes and natural disturbances" of the site, particularly the lake's fluctuating water levels. Other conditions that have been observed over the years include erosion and sand and silt deposits.

 
Conservation of this earthwork is particularly challenging given Spiral Jetty's unpredictable environment. Baseline documentation and a system to monitor Spiral Jetty's condition are necessary before any conservation treatment can be considered and developed. In March 2009, Francesca Esmay, a conservator from Dia Art Foundation, which acquired the work as a gift from the Robert Smithson Estate in 1999, approached Rand Eppich and Aurora Tang at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) seeking a simple, consistent, and cost-effective means of documenting the work for possible conservation.

In May 2009, the GCI-Dia team undertook documentation of the Spiral Jetty using aerial balloon photography and other techniques. Images from that documentation campaign can be found below, including an image gallery of the aerial photography, a 360-degree view from the coils of Spiral Jetty, and a time-lapse video of sunrise at the site.

Image Gallery Slide Show

Time-lapse video of sunrise

360° panorama (requires QuickTime)

Last updated: June 2010