Got to Admit It’s Getty-ing Better…

Getty-ing better all the tiiiime!

Pretty lame, I know, but daaaang my internship just gets better and better. Today, I had the privilege of attending an extremely rare small convention (~35) of conservators, curators, scientists and arts officials from four places: the Getty (Museum Conservation, Curation and Conservation Science sectors), the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, the St. Louis Art Museum and a private collector-scholar from England. All the buzz and travel was for three bronzes of Saint John the Baptist (you know, the one who was beheaded?) coming from the two out-of-state art museums and the art collector. Getty Conservators (in Dec Arts and Sculpture Conservation– that’s me!) have been doing technical studies of bronzes of all kinds, but these three that are strikingly similar are a bit of a mystery.

First, everyone met in the lab and got their first glimpses of all three together. After some preliminary discussion, we watched presentations of the methods used by the Getty to analyze the bronzes: X-Ray, X-Ray Fluorescence, CT Scans, X-Ray Defraction and 3D Scanning. There was a lot of rabble going on by the time we got to the 3D scanning, as it’s probably the first time a lot of people have seen this kind of technology. Most of the comparison in the 3D scanning came through millimeter measurements of differences in the composites of the bronzes when they were overlaid. The company and discussion was pretty epic– but not so epic that a little ol’ antiquities enthusiast couldn’t keep up. I learned an incredible amount of information about bronze casting, small details, how to look for them and what they imply, and about the latest technologies that we use even in archaeology. The data was a bit time-crunched and some of it had significant margins of error due to faulty software and Italian holidays (oh the woes of technology and Europeans!), but overall the data put together was pretty amazing– nothing conclusive yet, unfortunately. I am extremely impressed with 3D scanning resolution on a small scale, and really looking forward to the data that will further come from CT scanning certain sections of interest (especially the threaded lugs).

During a break, I spoke with the conservation labs manager David Carson and the chief of conservation science about imaging techniques and PTM!!! Giacomo Chiari is the chief of conservation science and quite an inventor– he invented the Duetto, a device that XRFs and XRDs at the same time. He also tinkers with PTMing, and actually removed the small perfectly cylindrical ball from a fine point Sharpie and used it as a ball for PTMing under a MICROSCOPE. I heard about him from Mark and Carla of CHI, but now that I meet the man I can tell he’s a pretty kooky Italian guy who really just has a passion for gizmos (scientists are so cool!). I’m not going to get my hopes up too high, but he mentioned us taking some PTMs together. Not gonna get my hopes up… Not gonna get my hopes up… But I really hope it happens!

Anyway, as my internship continues to move forward, I feel like the answer to the overarching question that I’ve heard many times these ten weeks is becoming more and more clear. “What are you doing in an internship that deals with 16-19th century European decorative art when you’re an archaeology major with an interest in Asia?” The past two days I’ve been learning about a lot of stuff to do with Japanese lacquer and importation from Burma, as well as reading about archaeology notes from an excavation of a lacquer shop in southern Japan. Today, I learned details about technology that I never deal with at USC but have an opportunity to become intimate with here at the Getty– technology that is very relevant to archaeology. I’ve had tours of all the GCI labs, met the crazy people who work there, had my mind blown by the crazy equipment, observed the quirks between different conservation specialists, and next week I get to go to the Getty Villa for a tour of the labs there, galleries, and am meeting with a lab conservator there and their UCLA/Getty graduate who is a current intern. I’ve met with people who work on the Mogao Caves, on wall paintings in Turkey, and conserved a then-freshly excavated pyramid in Guatemala with wall art depicting a creation story chalk full of runes that pre-date Mayan writing and no one has figured out. Overall, I’ve explored a very real career path possibility sort of as a side track.

I should also mention that the database I’ve been working on is almost live! 🙂 To beat all the people who are going out of town, we had a farewell lunch for me yesterday and I got a very sweet card from the department and some REALLY COOL books: One is the GCI publication about their work on sites along the Silk Road (from 1993– they had to pull some strings to get me one!) and their published results of their Mogao conservation years. I am going to go home and read them now…


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