By Janet Bridgland

In the summer of 1985, the Getty Conservation Institute took up quarters in rented warehouse space in Marina del Rey, a suburb of Los Angeles. For the Institute's dozen employees and its newly installed first director, the move marked the beginning of the GCI's full-fledged operation.

The Institute's establishment as a new player in the international field of cultural heritage conservation was the result of years of planning, combined with the bequest of one of the world's most prominent art collectors, J. Paul Getty. Its origins dated to 1953, when Mr. Getty opened the art collection in his Malibu residence to the public. Created as a trust, the J. Paul Getty Museum became an operating foundation in the early 1970s. In 1982, six years after his death, Mr. Getty's estate was settled, and the size of his substantial endowment to the museum was revealed.

In the year leading up to the settlement of the estate, the Getty Trust explored how it might best concentrate its energies in the fields of art and art history. Its legal status as an operating trust required it to create and operate its own programs rather than fund those of other institutions, and the Trust's Board felt a responsibility to develop programs beyond the reach of other private and public institutions. As its President and Chief Executive Officer, Harold M. Williams noted in June 1983, "We are unusual as a foundation in that we have a very large endowment. We can think long-range and make long-term commitments.... Unlike a government agency, we do not need to satisfy different constituencies. Unlike a corporate foundation, we are not looking for PR value. We can focus our efforts and we can take risks; therefore, we have a special responsibility."

The Formative Years

Conservation image

In April 1982 the Trust committed itself to four major activities: a Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, a Conservation Institute, a Center for Education in the Arts, and a new museum, all of which would eventually be located at a common site in the Los Angeles area.

After extensive consultations, the Trust selected three programs for the Conservation Institute that were considered top priorities by the field: applied scientific research and analysis; the collection and dissemination of information relating to conservation and allied fields; and training in conservation theory and practice. Consistent with the Trust's underlying philosophy, the Institute would adopt an interdisciplinary approach, combining science and art history with treatment in its efforts to preserve the cultural heritage.

Guided by an international conservation advisory committee, the Trust early on took steps related to establishing a conservation institute. In late 1982 it contracted with the regional conservation laboratory in Williamstown, Massachussetts, to assess information needs of conservation practitioners and recommend strategies for improving the collection and dissemination of information. In February 1983 Frank Preusser was recruited from Munich's Doerner Institute to develop a program of analytical support to the Getty Museum and applied scientific research that eventually formed the core of the GCI's research activities. In April of that year the Trust took over financial and operational responsibility for Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (AATA) on behalf of the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) and later surveyed AATA's readership to determine how the publication could be improved.

Early in 1985 the Trust concluded its search for the Institute's first director. The appointment of Luis Monreal, then Secretary General of the Paris-based International Council of Museums, was a philosophical turning point in the GCI's development. Until then the Trust envisioned the Institute concentrating on fine arts collections in museums. However, in a December 1984 meeting with Harold Williams and Nancy Englander (the Trust's Director of Program Planning and Analysis), Mr. Monreal advocated that the Institute devote its resources not only to objects and collections but also to immovable cultural property such as archaeological sites and monuments, particularly in countries rich with cultural heritage but lacking the technical or financial resources to conserve them. The Trust ultimately embraced this perspective—a shift in direction that Mr. Williams later called a "transforming moment" for the Institute—and Mr. Monreal took up his duties as GCI Director in May 1985

Creating a Critical Mass: 1985-1986

Conservation image

By August 1985, when its small staff moved to Marina del Rey from Malibu, the GCI had already organized a three-week study group in Japan on Asian lacquerware (urushi), hired a full-time managing editor for AATA, initiated an extramural scientific research program with partners in Europe and North America, and begun discussions to create an international computerized conservation information network. Likened by one onlooker to "a whirling dervish," Mr. Monreal was determined that the Institute have an immediate impact on the conservation field.

He was also committed to the Getty Trust's belief in an interdisciplinary approach to conservation. "In fact," he later said, "for several years before going to the Getty I had been puzzled about this kind of dichotomy that existed in the conservation field between different specialties and different professionals." He felt that the Getty could set a precedent by transforming conservation into an interdisciplinary pursuit that involved art historians, architectural conservators, materials scientists, chemists, engineers, and others in the process. "It was necessary to put together a small but distinguished team of professionals in all these areas that could believe in those principles and work together."

The bulk of the Institute's scientific activities was transferred to Marina del Rey, while a small staff remained at the Getty Museum to support its conservation and acquisitions programs. A major challenge facing the Institute—indeed the field as a whole—was the dearth of trained conservation scientists. A survey in the late 1970s found fewer than 50 conservation scientists in all of the United States. Cognizant that the field would not be well served by "robbing Peter to pay Paul," Dr. Preusser, the GCI's Scientific Program Director, set out to expand the ranks of conservation scientists by recruiting a young team whose common attribute was a fascination with the challenge of applying science to cultural heritage preservation.

As a principle, the Institute sought outside partners to increase the impact of its resources. This was particularly evident in the Scientific Program, which divided its energies between in-house research projects and extramural research. James Druzik, a GCI Conservation Scientist who has coordinated the Institute's extramural research since 1985, recalls that "it was always within the design of the GCI's research plan to exploit centers of scientific and engineering excellence in furthering conservation practice and understanding. This was regardless of whether that knowledge was at other conservation facilities, in academic institutions, or within industry."

Research projects were selected according to the urgency of a problem, its importance to the field, and the absence of research on that topic. Care was taken not to duplicate efforts under way elsewhere. In-house research, aimed at products commonly used in conservation, first investigated surface coatings and consolidants. Evaluating materials used in display and storage became another important area of research.

AATA, projects such as the products database, and the embryonic library collection started by Museum conservation staff formed the nucleus of the GCI's Documentation Program. In June 1985 AATA and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) decided to pool bibliographic references in a common on-line database. That August the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN), a program of the National Museums of Canada, agreed to undertake a pilot project to create an on-line database for AATA. The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), a sister program to CHIN, subsequently contributed to the emerging network.

The first step in deciding how best to apply the Institute's resources to conservation training was to review training curricula and facilities worldwide and determine where the principal needs existed. Consultations with the profession suggested that the Institute should focus on continuing education and advanced training rather than entry-level programs.

"We were interested in initiating training activities for conservation professionals in specialized areas that had received little attention, such as the conservation of ethnographic materials," recalls Training Program Director Marta de la Torre, who launched the program in mid-1985. In keeping with the Institute's desire to act as a catalyst, the Training Program sought joint ventures with other institutions. "Rather than depend upon a large in-house staff, we thought it would be more effective for us to work with outside expertise. The Training Program began as a creating and coordinating unit rather than as a teaching unit—and it has remained so." By October 1985 the GCI had launched, with the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, its first collaborative training project, a three-year diploma course in wall paintings conservation; this was also the first formal training program on this subject ever conducted in England.

From the outset, Mr. Monreal believed that special projects were needed to complement the Institute's Scientific Research, Documentation, and Training programs. "Special Projects were, particularly at the beginning, a tactical move to occupy one part of the conservation picture and give the Institute the visibility it required in its initial stages," he said. At the same time, the projects provided an opportunity for staff to benefit from the expertise of the people in the countries where the projects took place: "Any institution whose goal is to address matters beyond its physical boundaries runs a risk of arteriosclerosis if it is not constantly in contact with the problems in the field."

The Institute's first Special Project, the conservation of the wall paintings in the tomb of Queen Nefertari in Egypt's Valley of the Queens, began in 1986 with an important research component—developing a diagnostic methodology that could be applied to wall paintings in other sites. The treatment phase that followed included a training program for conservators from Egypt and other countries. In this and subsequent field projects, documentation of the site and of the methodologies used was an important element in the project design.

In addition to field projects, the Institute began convening groups of experts to address issues that had received limited attention. In October 1985 the GCI held an international meeting on disaster preparedness and response, which led to the creation of an interdisciplinary steering committee and a number of efforts intended to assist in the protection of cultural property from disasters. Two months later the Institute organized with ICCROM a meeting of representatives from leading conservation research institutions to exchange information about research and to strengthen collaboration. In April 1986 the GCI and Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia organized an international meeting on "In Situ Archaeological Conservation," one of whose principal aims was to establish greater dialogue and cooperation between conservators and archaeologists.

Conservation image

These gatherings were an important means of identifying priorities for the Institute. For example, the "In Situ" conference pointed to the need for research on the conservation of mud brick, adobe, and mud plaster, and for training in team fieldwork for conservators and archaeologists. Publications were a spinoff of these events and another step toward meeting the information needs of the field.

As the Institute grew, its Visiting Committee provided guidance on programs and policies. The GCI's role in enhancing public awareness of conservation was discussed early on; however, it was agreed that the Institute should concentrate on activities directed at conservation professionals until it was better established.

The Programs Emerge: 1987-1990

Conservation image

By 1987 each program had a clearly defined set of goals.

The Scientific Program's activities were organized into five categories. The museum environment encompassed strategies for preventing damage to collections, such as that caused by air pollution and light, fluctuations of temperature and humidity, and insect pests. Materials and methods was concerned with identifying materials and developing procedures for testing them: protective coatings and consolidants fell into this category. In addition, the program began research and analysis of artists' materials, including pigments, binding media, and varnishes. New technology dealt with the evaluation of new analytical, diagnostic, or treatment techniques that could be applied to works of art. Architecture and monuments addressed the conservation of building materials such as stone and adobe or outdoor bronzes.

The Scientific Program also maintained its museum services section at the Getty Museum. "It made no sense for the Museum to have a separate scientific department when the GCI could fulfill that function," explained David Scott, who has headed Museum Services since 1987 (and served as Acting Scientific Program Director during the first half of 1995). "The Institute has provided necessary technical expertise for the examination and analysis, as well as the conservation, of numerous museum objects—over a thousand by 1994. A lot of the work done for the Museum has been written up and published in the general literature, and in a few instances even led to conferences on specialized topics, such as ancient and historic metals."

As a number of in-house projects reached maturity, the Scientific Program began emphasizing the development of conservation applications for use in the field. One area of investigation concerned methods of controlling biological growth on archaeological sites and outdoor monuments. Another, the evaluation of seismic mitigation measures for art objects, was directed toward the needs of the Getty Museum but had broad international application as well. By 1990 the Scientific Program played an increasing role in collaborating with the Training Program (in areas such as ethnographic conservation, in situ conservation, and site management), participating in the Conservation Information Network's materials database, and supporting Special Projects. "As Special Projects grew, there was a corresponding need for Scientific Program staff to explore the challenging conservation problems these projects posed," said Dr. Scott. "This ultimately led to our direct involvement in a variety of activities, running the gamut from the development of environmental monitoring systems to assessing the causes of stone deterioration."

The mandate of the Training Program was to stimulate international conservation training through joint ventures with other institutions. By 1988 the program's activities were divided into three main categories: professional training (programs considered comprehensive by virtue of their duration and the scope of their curricula), specialized training (short-term courses on particular topics), and infrastructure development (support of conservation training in general). The care and protection of museum collections through preventive conservation became a priority, as did augmenting the number and quality of training opportunities in developing countries. The Program also concentrated on training in the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic objects and archaeological sites, as well as on the development of teaching materials to be used in degree-granting conservation programs.

Conservation image
Conservation image
Conservation image

The Documentation Program's three principal initiatives were AATA, the GCI Library, and the Conservation Information Network. The Getty Trust took over AATA's operation with a commitment to making it easier to use and to expanding its geographic and subject coverage. During the late 1980s new specialty editors were recruited, fields such as archaeology and architecture were canvassed for ways of improving literature coverage in these areas, and a new indexing system and keywords were developed. Special subject supplements were reinstated, and collaboration was initiated with the Getty's Art and Architecture Thesaurus project (AAT) to develop a conservation thesaurus.

The Conservation Information Network was a particularly ambitious collaborative venture. By its official release in September 1987, the Network's contributing partners included the GCI, the Canadian Conservation Institute, ICCROM, the Smithsonian's Conservation Analytical Laboratory (CAL), and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), with system support from CHIN. By February 1988 the Network had received more than eight hundred inquiries about its services from 34 countries. Bilingual access in French and English was instated, and the Network was demonstrated for the first time in Eastern Europe. In 1990, consistent with the GCI's commitment to reduce support once development was completed, a transition plan was devised for transferring Network management and operations to CHIN.

From their inception, Special Projects were intended to complement the Institute's regular programs of Scientific Research, Training, and Documentation, fostering the interdisciplinarity to which the Institute was committed. Projects were selected according to the urgency of the issues to be addressed and their importance to the field.

"There have always been multiple objectives with Special Projects," says Neville Agnew, former Director of GCI Special Projects and now the Institute's Associate Director for Programs. "Certainly among them is tackling challenges not capable of being easily met by others. That's particularly true in the developing world, where we've worked extensively. We've looked for strong collaborative partnerships and for opportunities to act as a stimulus for the conservation efforts of others. We're well aware that our resources are extremely limited in terms of our ability to do large projects, and we wouldn't want to be repetitive in the kind of conservation activities we undertake at a particular site. We can really just do examples, coupled with training in methodologies. But our involvement in a project can often have many positive spinoffs, including the enhancement of the status of the cultural resource authorities in their own country. We've seen this happen a number of times."

In some cases, Special Projects fell prey to political events. For instance, the project involving site conservation of the Buddhist art in the Mogao and Yungang grottoes in China—formally agreed to in January 1989—was suspended following events in Tiananmen Square. However, the China project did resume 18 months later, and a variety of site conservation activities were undertaken.

Conservation image Conservation image
Conservation image Conservation image

The GCI in Transition

Conservation image

In May 1990 Luis Monreal left the GCI to return to his native Barcelona, leaving the management of the Institute to Associate Directors Frank Preusser and Rona Sebastian, pending the appointment of a new Director. That November Miguel Angel Corzo, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Friends of the Arts of Mexico Foundation, was selected to head the Institute.

In addition to his tenure as a consultant and then as director of Special Projects at the GCI between 1985 and 1988, Mr. Corzo's extensive museum, archaeological, and historic centers experience and his commitment to the arts made him an ideal candidate to take the Institute to its next level of development. In accepting the appointment, he signaled his interest in conservation advocacy when he observed that "the GCI plays a vital role in raising worldwide awareness of the need to conserve cultural property and thereby maintain lasting artistic and humanistic values." He said he looked forward "to the challenge of continuing to build on the Institute's impressive record as an international advocate of conservation."

Mr. Corzo's first steps on taking up his duties were to review the Institute's progress in key areas and to encourage a less program-oriented, more thematic approach as the basis for assessing the GCI's work. This approach was intended to strengthen collaboration among the Institute's programs, which until then had been promoted primarily through Special Projects.

The theme of preventive conservation for museum collections had been addressed by the Institute beginning with its early environmental research. Building on this research, the Training Program developed a two-week course on preventive conservation, offered first with the Art Conservation Program of the University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum in 1987 and again in an expanded version at the GCI in 1990. Training Program Director Marta de la Torre sees the course, now held annually, as "a fundamental part of the Institute's overall effort to expand conservation practice beyond treatment to encompass management. Preventive conservation approaches—which include such things as environmental controls, appropriate storage, and the monitoring of objects—offer today's conservator the most effective way to protect collections." Also during the late 1980s, the GCI joined with the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC) to develop a methodology for gathering and reporting information essential for successful collections-care policies and practices. This was completed and distributed to the field during 1990.

Conservation of ethnographic and archaeological objects was another area of Institute activity. Training became a major focus because of the lack of conservators specializing in ethnographic and archaeological conservation. A 1990 GCI course on the consolidation of ethnographic painted objects was a prime example of collaboration by Institute programs. Developed with ethnographic conservators and materials scientists, the course drew on in-house research to provide new data on paints typically found on ethnographic objects. The course was so successful that a special AATA supplement was developed on the topic. In a related activity, the Training Program has continued to work for the development of a master's program in the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials, in partnership with a major university.

Conservation, management, and protection of archaeological sites and monuments grew out of the Institute's concern that insufficient attention had been paid to conservation issues posed by sites and monuments. By 1990 GCI activities encompassed the conservation of many types of cultural property in situ, including rock art, wall paintings, mosaics, archaeological sites, historic monuments, and architecture. The Scientific Program, in support of Special Projects, installed environmental monitoring stations in Egypt, China, and Bolivia, and conducted studies on adobe and stone consolidation. Conservation work in the tomb of Nefertari continued, while activity at the two Buddhist cave sites in China resumed in 1990.

Between 1987 and 1991 five training courses given for archaeologists emphasized preventive conservation and the safe retrieval of cultural property during excavations. Field-based training in the conservation of archaeological sites and objects was also developed in conjunction with projects in Tiwanaku, Bolivia, and Paphos, Cyprus. Complementing the conservation training was instruction in creating site management plans, including provisions for future visitor access. "These courses were part of the GCI's effort to make conservation a site management issue," recalls Margaret Mac Lean, formerly with the Institute's Training Program and now Documentation Program Director. "That effort also involved developing a flexible yet systematic approach to decision making which included such elements as bringing together all parties interested in a site and assessing a site's significance or value before embarking on any conservation program. Exposure to this approach certainly made a contribution to the work of those who participated in the courses, some of whose careers have taken a different path as a result."

Conservation image
Conservation image

In keeping with its desire to foster the exchange of information and expertise, the GCI coorganized two conferences in 1990 that addressed historic preservation and management. The 6th International Conference on the Conservation of Earthen Architecture ("Adobe 90") was held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and its proceedings published by the GCI. An "International Seminar on Conservation of Cultural Property within the Urban Environment," held in Quito, Ecuador, marked the GCI's first attempt to examine architectural heritage preservation in historic cities.

Conservation image

Disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response, one of the Institute's earliest initiatives, remained a priority. In 1990 the GCI began a collaborative project in Skopje, Yugoslavia, to develop a methodology for seismic strengthening of Byzantine churches and other historic structures; in the same year in California, it initiated a study with a similar aim for adobe structures, the Getty Seismic Adobe Project. September 1990 witnessed the organizing of an international conference, "Conservation and Disaster Recovery: International Cooperation at the Library of the USSR Academy of Sciences" in Leningrad, which reviewed the Academy's recovery following its devastating 1988 fire (the GCI and the U.S. Library of Congress continued providing technical assistance with the recovery).

Even as the GCI was expanding its activities in these areas, Mr. Corzo moved the Institute in a new direction: increasing public understanding of the need to conserve the cultural heritage and creating a greater constituency for conservation.

Conservation image Conservation image

A Broadening Mission: 1991-1995

As it grew, the Institute broadened its audience from conservation practitioners working primarily in the fine arts to include those responsible for archaeological sites and artifacts. By the early 1990s the Institute began reaching out to all the professionals who work with cultural property: art historians, curators, archaeologists, engineers, and architects, among others. Decision makers were equally important. The Institute recognized that their support was essential in the adoption of preventive conservation as a priority.

In 1991 the Institute revised the format for its newsletter, now targeting a larger constituency. Conservation, The GCI Newsletter, was designed to move beyond the traditional conservation audience and to bring about a better understanding of the modern threats to cultural property, such as poorly planned development, industrial pollution, and mismanaged tourism. The following year, the Institute formally redefined its mission, stating in part: "Committed to preserving the world's cultural heritage for the enrichment and education of present and future generations, the Institute seeks to increase awareness of and respect for all cultural heritage, regardless of its place of origin, [and] to provide relevant information to all those responsible for conservation policies and practices."

Conservation image

As the Institute's audience expanded, so did the thrust of its activities. In 1991 it organized with US/ICOMOS a symposium on "Cultural Heritage in Asia and the Pacific: Conservation and Policy," where representatives from 15 countries discussed the challenges of conserving their national heritage and the influence of governmental policies on this process. The proceedings of the meeting were published, and a follow-up meeting was held in Sri Lanka in 1993, which focused on the destruction caused by illicit traffic of cultural objects, the conservation problems resulting from increased tourism in the region, and the need to educate the public and train professionals in the field.

In the same year as the Sri Lanka meeting the Institute coorganized an international conference in Dunhuang, China, on the "Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road." Those attending the six-day event had the opportunity to visit the nearby Mogao Grottoes, where the GCI's conservation efforts—in partnership with China's State Bureau of Cultural Relics—were continuing. The Institute's attention to Asia was also reflected in an international conference on "The Future of Asia's Past," held in January 1995 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Coorganized by the Asia Society, the Siam Society, and the GCI, the conference was attended by representatives from 28 countries who met to discuss the urgent need to shape effective policies for the preservation of Asia's architectural heritage in the context of the region's rapid economic development.

A number of the Institute's initiatives have led to long-term commitments. Its participation in the organizing of the 1991 and 1993 conferences to address the conservation needs facing museums and libraries in Russia and throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States resulted in a concerted effort to help establish an international conservation center in St. Petersburg. A similar initiative is under way to assist with the creation of a research, training, and conservation treatment center in Oaxaca, Mexico, which would provide the Institute with a base for its Latin American activities.

Since 1991 the Institute's Special Projects have expanded not only in number but in scope, from conservation of a paleoanthropological site to conservation of an urban environment. In 1992 the Institute began a multifaceted collaborative project in the historic city core of Quito, Ecuador, that included among other elements a study of colonial-era structures and the development of a program to encourage their rehabilitation; a colloquium on seismic protection of historic buildings; conservation work at the La Merced Library; and production of a video on Quito's historic core. Two years later, on the other side of the world, the GCI and the government of Tanzania initiated a project to conserve the 3.6-million-year-old hominid tracks at the site of Laetoli; in a series of campaigns, the Institute is working to save from vegetation and erosion the most ancient traces of human ancestors.

Other recent GCI projects have included rock art conservation in Baja California, conservation of the bas-reliefs of the Royal Palace of Abomey in Benin, testing strategies in collaboration with the National Park Service to protect the Anasazi archaeological ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and the conservation of the 14th-century Last Judgment mosaic on St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The Institute is also researching the issues of conservation in humid tropical environments, using the Maya site of Xunantunich in Belize as a venue for addressing these problems. And, in its home community of Los Angeles, the GCI has been working for several years to save the only surviving public mural in the United States painted by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Conservation image
Conservation image
Conservation image

Creating successful Special Projects partnerships has been one of the greatest ongoing challenges facing the Institute. "It takes time to build a good relationship," says Martha Demas, Acting Director of Special Projects. "In some instances we've been more successful than in others. We've learned through sometimes difficult experience that building the necessary trust to make a project work requires sensitivity to cultural differences and to political realities. It also means maintaining regular contact with our partners and bringing those we're working with to visit the Institute to let them see who we are, what we do, and how we work." While this approach is time consuming, it yields benefits in terms of enhancing communication and mutual understanding. "It's absolutely essential for the success of a project to have a good partnership with the appropriate agency in the country where we're working," observes Dr. Demas. "The long-term care and maintenance of a site depend upon the establishment of an equal partnership from the beginning. Our partner needs to have a real stake in the work we're doing together."

Building on the earlier grouping of Institute activities, four themes currently provide the framework for the Institute's programs: objects and collections, archaeological sites and monuments, historic structures and cities, and public awareness and advocacy. Increasingly, the Institute has sought to exercise influence on major issues such as the development of professional training within targeted geographic regions, archaeological and historic site management, and the impact of tourism and economic development on the cultural heritage. This last issue was the subject of a six-day international conference on the "Conservation of Archaeological Sites in the Mediterranean Region," organized by the Institute and the Getty Museum. Over 80 high-level government officials and experts from 16 countries participated in this May 1995 conference, which addressed the difficulties of balancing conservation and preservation with increasing tourism and economic development.

With the support of its Visiting Committee, the GCI has embarked on a public advocacy program to raise awareness among the general public, as well as among decision makers internationally, of the importance of protecting the cultural heritage. The Institute's commitment to increased public awareness is based on the view that an informed public is the conservator's best ally and can profoundly impact the future of conservation. Projects in this area range from exhibitions and video documentaries to electronic products and a concerted media campaign to help disseminate the message of conservation.

In the fall of 1994, two GCI-organized exhibitions opened to the public. Nefertari: Light of Egypt, organized with the Fondazione Memmo, was held in Rome and used a variety of media—including virtual reality—to integrate history and the displaying of objects with a presentation of the conservation process. Another project, Picture L.A.: Landmarks of a New Generation—in which eight Los Angeles-area youths from diverse ethnic backgrounds photographed landmarks that were historically, culturally, or socially significant to them—resulted in an exhibition at Los Angeles City Hall that prompted many viewers to look more deeply at traditional concepts of landmarks.

So many of the GCI's activities reflect its search for a more universal, or "holistic," vision of conservation, one that encompasses a variety of approaches. In November 1994 the GCI and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property organized a symposium on interdisciplinary cooperation in preserving the cultural heritage, bringing together for the first time administrators and conservators from the fields of fine arts, libraries and archives, history and archaeology, natural science, and historic preservation, to discuss shared conservation management concerns. Emerging from the meeting was the consensus that there was a need for market research and a promotional campaign to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the cultural heritage (such a project is now being developed under the GCI's auspices). The following month saw yet another major cooperative venture. A "National Summit on Emergency Response: Safeguarding Our Cultural Heritage" organized by the NIC, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the GCI, witnessed unprecedented collaboration among the major organizations concerned with the preservation of cultural property and led to the creation of an ongoing task force to coordinate a response when cultural heritage is threatened by disaster.

Conservation image Conservation image

Conservation image

Conservation image

The GCI in the 21st Century

Conservation image

In a letter to Getty Trust President Harold Williams, Paul Perrot—an eminent and longstanding advocate for conservation within the international museum community—observed that "the accomplishments of the Getty Conservation Institute are nothing less than startling considering the relatively short number of years it has been in existence. There is no doubt in my mind that the developments we've seen, nationally and internationally, would not have occurred with the same vigor—or, perhaps, even occurred at all—had it not been for the constant support and leadership given by the J. Paul Getty Trust."

For GCI Director Miguel Angel Corzo, the achievements of the GCI are due, to an incalculable extent, to the people of the Institute. "The Getty Conservation Institute's strength lies with the exceptional spectrum of its staff. They come from a wide variety of disciplines and from a broad diversity of nationalities. It is this mix—plus their excellence—that make the Institute's approach truly multidisciplinary, as well as sensitive to different cultures."

Today the Institute and the J. Paul Getty Trust stand on the verge of a new stage in their development. As construction of the new Getty Center in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles moves toward completion, the seven programs of the Trust will be united at one site. In May 1996 the Getty Conservation Institute will be the first program installed in the Getty's permanent home. There it will be able to forge yet closer relationships with the other programs of the Trust while at the same time working to preserve the world's heritage—from the Los Angeles community in which it is based to the far-flung corners of the globe.

"As we get ready to embark on the twenty-first century at our new facilities in the Getty Center, a whole set of exciting challenges awaits us," reflects Miguel Angel Corzo. Among these, he says, is "a more intense collaboration with the other Getty Programs, bringing young people into the world of cultural heritage conservation, and maintaining our standards of excellence. But the ultimate challenge, of course, is the one we have always had—ensuring that future generations will be able to share in the glory of our culturally diverse past."

Janet Bridgland joined the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1983 and was Documentation Program Director for the GCI from 1986 to 1990. She is presently a conservation consultant based in Minnesota.


The Publications Department

The Publications Department of the Getty Conservation Institute was established in 1986 with the mandate "to publish the results of the Institute's work." Today the Institute disseminates information on a wide range of topics related to cultural heritage conservation.

The Institute's first title, The Nature of Conservation: A Race Against Time, was produced in 1986. Written by Philip Ward and released in English, French, and Spanish versions, it was designed to serve as an introduction to the philosophy and methods of conservation for museum professionals, site managers, and the public.

As part of the GCI's involvement in organizing conferences, the Institute began publishing conference proceedings and, later, preprints. Beginning in 1987 a proceedings volume was produced each year for the next three years, the first being In Situ Archaeological Conservation. Other early publications included the Nefertari Progress Report on the conservation project in the tomb of Nefertari, and Between Two Earthquakes: Cultural Property in Seismic Zones, written by Sir Bernard Feilden, the former director of ICCROM, and released in both English and Spanish.

In 1988 the Institute started publishing the results of its scientific research in conservation, including work commissioned by the GCI Scientific Program. Since then, the increasingly active publications program reflects the Institute's continuing commitment to the dissemination of information to conservation professionals, as well as to those working in related fields such as archaeology and art history (this is true as well with Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts). Publications are also directed toward enhancing conservation training and increasing public awareness of conservation and its importance.

The over 40 books that have thus far been published by the Institute fall into one of six general categories:

  • Individual titles (not part of a series)
  • Reference books (directories and abstracts)
  • Symposium proceedings (edited texts of conferences)
  • Symposium preprints (texts of symposium papers published in advance)
  • Research in Conservation series (results of scientific research on a specific topic)
  • GCI Scientific Program reports (reports of research conducted under GCI auspices)

Two of the newest books in the symposium proceedings series are Archaeometry of Pre-Columbian Sites and Artifacts and Ancient and Historic Metals: Conservation and Scientific Research. The latest volume in the Research in Conservation series is Accelerated Aging: Photochemical and Thermal Aspects. Also recently issued is the International Directory of Training in Conservation of Cultural Heritage.

Among the most recent of the Institute's publications is Picture L.A.: Landmarks of a New Generation, an exhibition catalogue with photographs and text that has won three international design competitions. A final report on the conservation of wall paintings in the tomb of Nefertari, Art and Eternity, has also been produced. Other Institute monographs on specific issues of conservation have included The Conservation of the Orpheus Mosaic at Paphos, Cyprus, and The Metallography and Microstructure of Ancient and Historic Metals.

The GCI 1985-1995: A Retrospective

Time Line

1981: Getty Trust explores arts community needs in anticipation of endowment funding

1982: Trust announces commitment to Conservation Institute and other programs; Conservation Information Project begins

1983: Frank Preusser hired as Conservation Scientist and Laboratory Head at Getty Museum; Aging of coatings and consolidants research begins; Parylene research begins; Trust assumes responsibility for Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (AATA); 1st meeting of the GCI's Advisory Committee

1984: AATA readership surveyed; Research begins on protection of art from photochemical smog and cellulose ethers


MAY: Luis Monreal becomes first Institute Director

JUNE: AATA and ICCROM Library agree to standardize and merge bibliographic citations; GCI gives one-time endowments to three U.S. conservation training programs; "Urushi" meeting and study tour in Japan; Test procedures evaluated for accelerated aging of museum and archival materials

JULY: Institute moves to Marina del Rey

AUGUST: AATA operations move from University of Delaware to GCI; Project launched to develop AATA database on-line

SEPTEMBER: GCI holds 1st training course, "The Restoration of Glass Vessels"

OCTOBER: GCI and Courtauld Institute in London organize diploma course in conservation of wall paintings; 1st meeting of specialists on "Disaster Planning for Cultural Property"

DECEMBER: GCI and ICCROM hold "International Meeting on Scientific Research" in Rome, Italy


JANUARY: 1st GCI Newsletter published

APRIL: "In Situ Archaeological Conservation" conference in Mexico City; Agreement with National Museums of Canada to develop computerized information network

JUNE: Meeting at Getty Museum on "Paintings Conservation"; Research begins on effects of fumigants on collections; 1st GCI Technical Report published; 1st GCI monograph, The Nature of Conservation, published; Research begins on effects of biodeterioration on stone consolidants

JULY: GCI hosts international Meeting of Directors of Conservation Training Programs

AUGUST: Survey of indoor pollutants in museums begins; Course on metallography and microstructure of ancient and historic metals

SEPTEMBER: Nefertari project in Egypt announced

OCTOBER: 1st in-house scientific research fellowships awarded

NOVEMBER: 1st issue of AATA published from Network bibliographic database

DECEMBER: Research begins on consolidation of adobe


JANUARY: Conservation Information Network released to test users

MARCH: 1st course on "Conservation in Field Archaeology," held at UCLA; "Varnish Removal and the Cleaning of Paintings Workshop" at Getty Museum

APRIL: "Directors' Seminar on Conservation Training Issues" in Arrowhead, California; 1st course on "Conservation of Rock Art," held in Valltorta, Spain

MAY: 1st public demonstration of Conservation Information Network

JUNE: "Conservation of Paintings on Canvas" course in Mexico City; 1st course on "Preventive Conservation," held at University of Delaware; Research begins on sonic techniques for evaluating stone building materials

JULY: Emergency consolidation of Nefertari wall paintings completed

SEPTEMBER: Official release of Conservation Information Network, Sydney, Australia; Prototype design begins for Egyptian Royal Mummy Collection inert gas storage cases

OCTOBER: 1st workshop on "Conservation of Historic Photographs"


APRIL: Research in Conservation reference series launched; 1st symposium on "Materials Issues in Art and Archaeology"

MAY: Disaster emergency team sent to New Orleans in response to fire at historic Cabildo Building; Adobe field-testing established at Ft. Selden, New Mexico; Research begins on Chumash Indian pigments

JUNE: "Symposium on Excellence in Conservation Teaching" at GCI; 1st course in "Conservation of Archaeological Sites," held in Arica, Chile

JULY: Work on Dead Sea Scrolls begins

AUGUST: Research begins on epoxy resins for stone consolidation

SEPTEMBER: Disaster emergency team sent to Mexico City in response to flooding at Carrillo Gil Museum; Conservation of Orpheus Mosaic in Paphos, Cyprus, begins; Siqueiros mural project begins in Los Angeles

NOVEMBER: Research begins on consolidation of ethnographic objects


JANUARY: Project announced to conserve Buddhist grotto sites in China

FEBRUARY: GCI and Canberra College in Australia organize one-year diploma course on rock art conservation

APRIL: 1st course on "Rock Art Site Protection and Management," held at GCI

JUNE: GCI and NIC release guidelines for conservation assessments of museums; Work begins on environmental monitoring stations

JULY: "Conservation of Polychrome Sculpture" course in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Research begins on controlling insect pests in museums by oxygen deprivation

AUGUST: Research begins on analysis of binding media; Research completed on seismic-damage mitigation measures for museum objects

NOVEMBER: Hexashelter constructed to protect Orpheus mosaic in Paphos, Cyprus


FEBRUARY: "Conservation Teaching Excellence" seminar for Latin American training program directors; Research begins on seismic stabilization measures for Byzantine churches

MAY: Luis Monreal resigns as GCI Director; Environmental monitoring station installed on the Sphinx

JUNE: 1st edition of Research Abstracts published; Course on "Consolidation of Ethnographic Painted Objects," held at GCI

JULY: Research begins on controlling particle intrusion into museums and archaeological sites; Research begins on application to conservation of environmental scanning electron microscope

SEPTEMBER: Conference in Leningrad, "Conservation and Disaster Recovery: International Cooperation at the Library of the USSR Academy of Sciences"

OCTOBER: 6th International Conference on the Conservation of Earthen Architecture ("Adobe 90") in Las Cruces, New Mexico

NOVEMBER: Miguel Angel Corzo designated Director of GCI; "Conservation of Cultural Property within Urban Environments" seminar in Quito, Ecuador; 1st course in "Conservation of Excavated Sites," held in Paphos, Cyprus; Getty Seismic Adobe Project begins


MAY: Conservation project begins in historic center of Quito, Ecuador; Lecture series organized at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA

JULY: Research begins on waterborne consolidants

AUGUST: Research begins on light-bleaching of paper as a treatment

SEPTEMBER: "Conservation of Stone in Archaeological Sites and Historic Monuments" course in Puebla, Mexico; "Cultural Heritage in Asia and the Pacific: Conservation and Policy" symposium in Honolulu, Hawaii

OCTOBER: Research begins on alkali-soluble acrylics for indoor plaster conservation

NOVEMBER: "Ancient and Historic Metals: Conservation and Scientific Research" conference at Getty Museum; "Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Materials" course in Tiwanaku, Bolivia


JANUARY: GCI and Getty Museum organize "Emergency Planning in Museums" workshop

FEBRUARY: Project begins at Maya site of Xunantunich in Belize; Environmental monitoring project completed on the Sphinx; Conservation Imaging Consortium begins research on scientific image documentation and analysis; Research begins on Brazilian polychrome sculpture

MARCH: International Symposium on Archaeometry at UCLA; "Conservation of Excavated Materials and Sites" course in Jerusalem, Israel

APRIL: Conservation of wall paintings in Nefertari's tomb completed

MAY: Project begins to protect archaeological ruins at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

JUNE: Network management and operations transferred to CHIN

AUGUST: "Recent Methods in the Lining of Paintings" course in Copenhagen, Denmark, for Eastern European conservators

SEPTEMBER: GCI joins effort to identify scientific research priorities for U.S. libraries and archives

OCTOBER: Project to conserve St. Vitus mosaic in Prague, Czechoslovakia, announced; "Grotto Site Management" course in China

NOVEMBER: Exhibition In The Tomb of Nefertari: Conservation of the Wall Paintings opens at Getty Museum


JANUARY: "Conservation and the Archaeologist" course at UCLA

MARCH: GCI begins developing display cases for Constitution of India manuscripts; Treatment of Kienholz's Back Seat Dodge '38 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

APRIL: GCI holds 1st Open House

MAY: "Seismic Protection of Historic Buildings and Monuments" colloquium in Quito, Ecuador; Project begins on rock art sites in Baja California Sur, Mexico

JUNE: Archaeological site management seminar in San Ignacio, Belize; International conference on preservation of collections in St. Petersburg, Russia

JULY: Project to conserve hominid footprints in Laetoli, Tanzania, begins; International conference on Islamic monuments in Cairo, Egypt; Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on heritage conservation in Asia-Pacific region

OCTOBER: "Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road" conference in Dunhuang, China

DECEMBER: Advisory committee established to study lintels in Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem


FEBRUARY: Conservation project for historic center of Ouro Preto, Brazil, begins; GCI provides assistance to historic properties damaged in January 1994 L.A. earthquake; "Thin-layer Chromatography" workshop at GCI

APRIL: 1st course on "Pest Management," held at GCI; Project begins to conserve bas-reliefs of the Royal Palace of Abomey, Benin; Research begins on Brancusi's The Infinite Column in Târgu Jiu, Romania

OCTOBER: Nefertari: Light of Egypt exhibition opens at the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome; "Site Conservation" seminar in Israel

NOVEMBER: "Interdisciplinary Cooperation in Managing the Conservation of the Cultural Heritage" symposium at GCI

DECEMBER: "National Summit on Emergency Response: Safeguarding Our Cultural Heritage" in Washington, D.C.; Picture L.A.: Landmarks of a New Generation exhibition opens at Los Angeles City Hall; Research begins on testing program for preservation of archaeological sites through reburial


JANUARY: "The Future of Asia's Past" conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand

FEBRUARY: "Site Conservation and Management" workshop in San Ignacio, Belize

MARCH: Research begins on removal of mold from paper and parchment

APRIL: "Structural Conservation of Panel Painting" symposium at Getty Museum; Project begins to conserve wall paintings in Ibiza, Spain

MAY: "Conservation of Archaeological Sites in the Mediterranean Region" conference

JUNE: Documentation work begins at Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia; Facility established for St. Petersburg International Center for Preservation