Michael Schilling

Associate Scientist, Scientific Program

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A Southern California native, Mr. Schilling studied chemistry at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California. During and after college he worked in research for a major agricultural cooperative, where his responsibilities included analysis of citrus products and water samples.

In 1983 Michael Schilling saw a newspaper ad for an assistant scientist position at the J. Paul Getty Museum. When he inquired about the job, he was told it would involve x-raying paintings. Deciding, as he put it, that x-raying paintings had to be better than cutting up oranges, he came down to the Museum to apply—and felt overwhelmed just entering the building for the first time. After subsequent interviews, Mr. Schilling was hired, much to his surprise. He became one of the first employees of what would evolve into the GCI, helping set up the Institute's first scientific laboratory.

Initially, Michael Schilling assisted in authenticity studies of art objects being considered for acquisition by the Museum. Later, after the GCI was established as a separate program of the J. Paul Getty Trust, his work included performing color measurements in the tomb of Nefertari prior to the tomb's conservation; he is now doing similar work on the Mogao and Yungang Grottoes in China. He also has conducted research on volatile organic compounds emitted from building materials used in museum display and storage. At the moment, most of his professional time is spent conducting gas chromotography and mass spectrometry of organic binding media as part of the Institute's research on binding media, the substance that holds pigments together and that adheres paint to surfaces.

After coming to the GCI, Mr. Schilling continued his studies at Cal Poly, receiving a master's degree in analytical chemistry in 1990. In his spare time, he devotes his patient scientific skills to correspondence chess, where matches are conducted through the mail—and can last two to three years.

 

Mahasti Afshar

Program Research Associate, Director's Office

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Originally from Tehran, Iran, Dr. Afshar received training in film and television production, first with the British Broadcasting Corporation in London and then with the Organisation de la Radio-Télévision Française in Paris. After working as a producer and a director for National Iranian Radio and Television, her interest in ancient Near Eastern Folklore and Mythology led her to a master's degree in the subject at Harvard University. She subsequently taught folklore at Tehran University, then wrote and narrated a children's film series based on Persian folktales. Mahasti Afshar later returned to Harvard where, in 1987, she received her Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indo-European Traditional Literature and Mythology. Her dissertation was published in 1988, winning an award from the Mahvi Foundation in Geneva.

Her study of folklore indirectly led to her work with the GCI, which she joined in 1989. As Dr. Afshar saw it, the GCI's efforts in art conservation paralleled the conservation of oral traditions that is part of folkloric studies. Both involved preserving manifestations of culture. Mythology deals with universals of human experience. Art, at its best, does the same.

The appeal for Mahasti Afshar of working at the GCI is that it gives her the chance to combine her academic training with an active role in conserving cultural heritage. In her present position, she assists the GCI's director in researching and developing Institute projects. The comprehensiveness she brings to this endeavor can by confirmed by a quick glimpse of the books, magazines, photographs, slide carousels, maps, three-ring binders, and still-unidentified scraps of paper that constitute what might be gently referred to as the controlled chaos of her office.

Over the last three years Dr. Afshar has helped to coordinate the Nefertari Conservation Project in Egypt and the Nefertari Exhibition, which opens at the J. Paul Getty Museum in November 1992. Through the preparation of presentations dealing with the Institute's programs she helps fulfill one of her professional objectives—promoting an awareness of the importance of conservation.