Lacquers workshop participants
 

In October 2012 the Getty Conservation Institute welcomed an international group of eighteen scientists and conservators to the Getty Center in Los Angeles to explore new procedures for uncovering detailed information about lacquered objects. The five-day workshop, entitled "Recent Advances in Characterizing Asian Lacquer," was the first in a series to be held at venues in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The workshop instructors—Michael Schilling of the GCI, Arlen Heginbotham of the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Nanke Schellmann of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna—presented a set of complementary tools, both low- and high-tech, for studying lacquers. These include a technique for precise sampling of individual lacquer layers, a procedure for characterizing lacquer using organic stains and microscopic examination, and application of an analytical protocol based on a specialized pyrolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (Py-GCMS) technique coupled with custom tools for data analysis and interpretation.

The workshop provided unique opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration. Throughout the week scientists and conservators worked in research teams to study samples of historic lacquer from their own collections, putting new techniques into practice. Group discussions included invited specialists in historical Chinese-language literature on lacquer to add insight into participants' findings, as well as into larger issues facing the field.

The "Recent Advances in Characterizing Asian Lacquer" workshop series was developed from ongoing collaboration between the GCI and the Getty Museum, and it aims to support a growing international community of lacquer researchers dedicated to sharing information and ideas. It was organized as part of GCI Educations Research into Practice Initiative, which uses training workshops, colloquia, and similar events to present new scientific advances resulting from research undertaken by the GCI and its partners.