Photo: Anna Flavin, GCI
I am privileged to be the director of the Getty Conservation Institute as it marks its thirtieth anniversary. The mission and the values it upholds have not changed since the Getty's trustees created it and its first director, Luis Monreal, assumed his seat in 1985. The need to protect, preserve, and conserve cultural heritage is as relevant and critical now as it was when the GCI was founded. Indeed, for a variety of reasons it could easily be argued that the needs in our field have only increased in the intervening thirty years.
If the GCI has been successful and had an impact, it is because of the vision and courage of many people from within the Getty and without. It is fitting that Otto Wittmann, a member of the Monuments Men (the World War II unit that endeavored to protect and retrieve cultural heritage during and after the war), planted the seed that would grow into the GCI. Wittmann—a former director of the Toledo Museum of Art and a Getty trustee—was the first to commit to paper the idea that the Getty should devote some of its substantial resources to an institute dedicated to the conservation and scientific examination of works of art. His notion was embraced by other Getty trustees and then robustly advanced by the trust's founding president, Harold M. Williams. The GCI was born. Throughout its short history the Institute has been the beneficiary of such visionary trustees, advisers, and colleagues, generous collaborators and partners, and a remarkable and committed staff.
Today the GCI is a part of the worldwide ecosystem of conservation. Each element of this ecosystem—which includes a wide variety of institutions and professionals—contributes to the collective goal of protecting and preserving the world's cultural heritage through the education of conservators, the establishment and implementation of policies, advocacy to save threatened places, scholarship to create new methodologies, and science to forge new treatments. As a member of this international community, the GCI has evolved to meet changing needs, resources, and technologies, always emphasizing service to the field.
This special edition of Conservation Perspectives seeks not only to chart the GCI's growth and accomplishments, but also to put the Institute's thirty years of work into the broader context of the conservation field's own development during this period. In her feature article, Jeanne Marie Teutonico, the GCI's associate director for programs, traces the movement of the Institute toward an increasingly holistic view of conservation and an integrated approach to conservation practice—an evolution that in many ways mirrors developments in the field as a whole.
In the articles that follow, authored by GCI staff and conservation colleagues, six major areas of Institute work are examined: conservation science, conservation and management of archaeological sites, preventive conservation, earthen architecture, decorated surfaces, and modern and contemporary art research. Each area is one to which the Institute has committed considerable resources and, in the case of most, decades of work. Our efforts in these areas constitute a significant portion of the GCI's investment in, and impact on, the field to date.
While the GCI, in certain respects, is still a young institution, it has, I believe, made an important contribution to enhancing the practice of conservation and to supporting our colleagues engaged in that work. That is our mission, one to which we were dedicated in the past, and one to which we will be dedicated in the future.
Each of us at the GCI thanks you—our partners, colleagues, and friends—for your efforts to protect and conserve the world's cultural heritage, and we look forward to continuing our collaborative work to preserve that heritage for the benefit of civil society.
Timothy P. Whalen