IMAGING IN CONSERVATION
The adaptation by the conservation profession of technologies developed by other fields—sometimes referred to as technology transfer—has for many decades been a critical component of advancing conservation practice. Over the years, conservation professionals have displayed considerable creativity in adapting new and innovative technologies that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.
One area where this has been particularly true is the use of imaging technology. Though photography has long been an important documentation tool in the conservator’s tool kit, recent decades have seen a marked increase in the number of instruments that offer the profession diverse ways of imaging material heritage. The result has been a significant expansion of the availability of certain kinds of information critical to the profession’s work. In the case of objects, for example, current imaging techniques can noninvasively tell us much about the chemical composition and physical properties of materials used in the object, and they can help us differentiate between original materials and those that have been used in restoration. For built heritage, these techniques can disclose the painting techniques and current condition of ancient wall paintings, provide precise measurements of a structure, or reveal the existence of archaeological ruins hidden beneath a jungle overgrowth.
The great variety of benefits that imaging technologies can offer to conservation is the focus of this edition of Conservation Perspectives.
In our feature article, Giovanni Verri of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London offers a comprehensive overview of the ways advances in imaging technology have enhanced the conservation both of objects and collections and of built heritage. In the article that follows, GCI staff members Karen Trentelman and Lori Wong detail how imaging technology has been applied in selected GCI projects, both in the laboratory and out in the field. Next, Christian Ouimet, a conservation technologist with Canada’s Heritage Conservation Services, describes how a number of different imaging technologies have been utilized in conservation work on Canadian built heritage. In the final article, Fenella G. France, chief of the Preservation Research and Testing Division of the Library of Congress, describes the ways various forms of imaging can not only improve the analysis of an object’s materials but also reveal information the object contains—information that might otherwise be irretrievable.
In our roundtable discussion, the ways imaging has altered conservation practice are explored by a diverse group that includes George Ballard, president of GB Geotechnics, an international company focused on the forensic investigation of structures, including historic buildings; John Delaney, senior imaging scientist at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and David Saunders, formerly keeper of conservation and scientific research with the British Museum and currently the inaugural Getty Rothschild Fellow.
We hope that after taking in the contents of this edition, you’ll have a well defined “picture” of the ways conservation has been transformed in part by the development and accessibility of exciting new imaging technologies.
Timothy P. Whalen