Dissemination of the results of its scientific research has always been among the GCI's highest priorities. While contributions to publications and professional meetings allow easy distribution of information to the field, the Institute recognizes that education and training often provide a better means of assisting the integration of emerging scientific knowledge into professional practice.

For this reason, the GCI's Education department created the Research Into Practice Initiative—ongoing training workshops, colloquia, and similar events—to present new scientific advances resulting from research undertaken by the GCI and its partners. Activities that are part of the Research Into Practice Initiative emphasize the adaptation of research results to practical problems, drawing upon the perspectives of both scientists and conservators, and identifying areas where further work and collaboration may be needed.


The modern profession of conservation began to emerge in the nineteenth century with the work of chemist Michael Faraday in the 1850s on the cleaning and protection of the collection at the National Gallery in London. In 1888, another milestone was reached in the appointment of Friedrich Rathgen at the Royal Museums of Berlin as the first chemist employed by a museum for the purpose of caring for its collection. In the early twentieth century, chemists Harold Pleinderleith of the British Museum, Paul Coremans of the Institut royal du Patrimoine artistique (Belgium), and Rutherford John Gettens and George Stout at the Fogg Museum (Harvard University) were pioneers in the development of the modern profession of conservation. With them began the symbiotic relationship that exists today between the scientific researcher and the practicing conservator.

Today more than ever, the conservation field looks to the sciences to provide understanding of materials, their deterioration, and their longer-term preservation. In addition to preserving the materials of the more distant past, conservators now are increasingly encountering new materials and media used in the products of modern culture which often pose unprecedented conservation challenges. Continued collaboration and dialogue between scientists and conservators are essential to the investigation and development of appropriate conservation solutions to meet these new challenges.


The goal of the Research Into Practice Initiative is the enhanced connection between scientific research and its application in the field through the timely movement of research results from the laboratory to the practicing professional. In support of this goal, the initiative is pursuing the following objectives:

• to present through training workshops, colloquia, and related events the results of new scientific work undertaken by the GCI and other research institutions;
• to consider how research advances can inform the understanding of a conservation problem and a choice of intervention;
• to highlight, for both conservator and researcher, the various issues at stake when integrating new research into practice; and
• to identify areas where further investigation may be needed—whether lab-based research, in-the-field testing and adapting, or both.

To date, the initiative activities have addressed the cleaning of acrylic painted surfaces; the desalination of porous building materials, and recent advances in characterizing Asian lacquer.

Page updated: June 2013