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UCLA/Getty Conservation Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials Update
What a year it has been for the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program! We launched a PhD program, started two new lecture series, created several fundraising initiatives, and experienced faculty and staff changes. And yet, everything was overshadowed by the pandemic, the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement, and climate change-induced fires in California.
As dramatic world events played out all around us, we took the opportunity to revise our vision statement for the program. Our new Mission Statement and Program Values are posted on our website https://conservation.ucla.edu/. As we build on the strong foundation our program has constructed over the past fifteen years, we aim to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within the program and to expand our efforts to address climate change through research and sustainability initiatives.
Professor Ellen Pearlstein continues to direct the Andrew W. Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation initiative (see image below). This program provides outreach and mentoring to prospective students from underrepresented communities, along with annual weeklong workshops on all aspects of cultural heritage conservation. This fall, Mellon initiative staff members Bianca Martinez Garcia and Nicole Passerotti taught a remote course through UCLA Extension titled “Preservation of Cultural Materials in Tribal Collections” for a largely Indigenous cohort.
Our students led many of our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives (DEI). In addition to developing a DEI statement and resource list for our website, we formed a committee to pursue outreach initiatives and collaborative partnerships with collecting institutions that house materials related to African American, Native American, Latinx, and Asian American history. We are also examining our admissions policies to further encourage applicants from underrepresented populations.
To address climate change and develop sustainability initiatives, our Lab Manager William Shelley worked with our students to develop practices and protocols to make our laboratories more sustainable. This work involved assessing Southern California recycling locations to increase recycling of conservation materials, researching Green Solvents in the field of conservation, and creating a list of local supply vendors in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Catlin Southwick, of Sustainability in Conservation (SIC), conducted a sustainability workshop for our students, faculty, and staff. Since then, several of our students joined the SIC’s Student Ambassador Program to work with conservation students in other programs around the world to develop sustainable practices in the field.
We inaugurated two new remote lecture series this year. The Distinguished Lecture Series was launched with a lecture by Dr. Spencer Crew, the Interim Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Dr. Crew spoke about the role of conservation in constructing history and building memory, with particular reference to African American collections. Our second lecture series is titled: “Conservation Conversations,” and consists of monthly remote lectures on the conservation of cultural heritage. Lectures are announced on our website and are archived on the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxT96YAosmk7vP3aNJb4SHw. The channel also hosts “Conservation Corner: Penny for your Thoughts?,” a video produced by students Jenny McGough, Moupi Mukhopadhyay, and Céline Wachsmuth, for UCLA’s Exploring Your Universe science fair aimed at communicating conservation science to children and families.
While we learned that remote instruction has certain advantages such as inviting guest speakers from different parts of the world, it cannot replace the hands-on learning our students need for using our analytical equipment and working directly on artifacts. Research could not be conducted in our labs on UCLA campus and the Getty Villa for much of the year. Faculty, students, and staff rallied to make the best of a difficult situation. We purchased portable microscopes, tools, sample materials, and even artifacts on eBay for students to work on at home. We focused more on critical analysis of published case studies, at times with the authors appearing on our Zoom sessions.
Even as the COVID-19 virus is surging, hope is in the air. With a new science-based approach to fighting the virus in Washington, D.C., and news of vaccines becoming available, we look forward to returning to our labs and learning from objects that tell us so much about who we have been, who we are, and who we can be.
—Glenn Wharton, Lore and Gerard Cunard Chair, UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, firstname.lastname@example.org
ANAGPIC, the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation, works to strengthen and advance graduate-level education and training in art and heritage conservation.
ANAGPIC meets regularly to provide a venue for the presentation and exchange of graduate student work and research. Student papers from the annual ANAGPIC conference can be found at http://resources.culturalheritage.org/anagpic-student-papers/.
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