Angela Campbell, Assistant Conservator in the Department of Paper Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, presented the research and treatment of a complete set of Himalayan initiation cards (tsakalis) in their collection. She focused on the condition, consolidation, and loss-compensation techniques done by herself, Rebecca Capua, and Yana van Dyke for this set. In conjunction with the treatments, there was a social media campaign to increase public outreach using this piece. For a great resource on the full treatment details, background, and purpose of these tsakalis, see the three posts available online through the Met blog:
- Eastern Religion Meets Western Science: Conserving Fifteenth-Century Tibetan Initiation Cards
by Angela Campbell, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation
- Filling In History: Conserving Fifteenth-Century Tibetan Initiation Cards, Continued
by Rebecca Capua, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation
- Evoking the Divine: Mental Purification Using a Tibetan Tsakali Mandala
by Kurt Behrendt, Associated Curator, Department of Asian Art
[includes translations and after treatment images of the rectos and versos of each of the cards]
I appreciated that Campbell addressed concerns of treatment consistency since the twenty-five cards were split among three conservators. Instead of having each conservator just do one treatment step for all the cards, each performed full treatments for 8 to 9 cards in the collection. Discussion was key, particularly in approaching the in-painting, and despite minor personal variations, a cohesive style was achieved.
Other rich questions that came up during the Q&A session focused more on the pre-treatment component of these cards. There was a question regarding the sacred nature impacting treatment decisions, which had only been brought up with the decision to maintain surface residues affiliated with handling. In conjunction with the sacred aspect, another question was raised about outreach and consultation with the surrounding Tibetan community in New York regarding the handling and treatment. While it was unclear if there was any contact before these cards reached the treatment stage, this comes back to a bigger question of who we perceive to be the actual stakeholders of the collections, particularly with cultural properties of living cultures.