Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference — Paintings Session, May 17th — "Using Web-Based Projects to Promote Conservation and Engage Diverse Audiences" by Kristin DeGhetaldi and Brian Baade

Thanks to museums that publicize our projects and the growing acceptance of on-site treatments, conservation is increasingly in the public eye. But these efforts can only reach so many people, and they tend to be temporary events or installations. Nowadays, we have a way to spread information to the interested reader, however far away they might be, and to archive information for far longer than is usually possible in the physical world. Thus, the question becomes: since knowledge can be disseminated and stored this way, if it can’t be accessed that way, does that research really exist?
Hence, the growing importance of a conservation project website.
First to be discussed is the Kress Technical Art History website ( The site approaches a discussion of conservation by focusing on an in-depth exploration of methods and techniques, built around the painting reconstructions completed by Kristin and Brian. Each reconstruction has a section of the website, with a different page for each layer of the painting, but they also have a physical life that also educates: The originals are distributed to museums along with pigment kits, to be used as didactic tools in museum galleries. The website has additional informational pages that cover historical materials and techniques, examination and scientific methods, a vocabulary primer, and links to other resources, including painting reconstructions done by other people. The depth of the website is frankly astounding, as every page seems to link to more detail and further research: from the Historical Methods/Techniques, you can click “inorganic pigments” and find a slideshow of the raw materials being prepared, a PDF of a chronological list of pigment usage, and a link to a video showing the extraction of lapis lazuli. Not only is this a valuable resource for anyone diving into historical painting techniques, but interested pre-programmers will find its resources invaluable for Winterthur’s “copy, reproduction or reconstruction” portfolio requirement.
The second project to be covered was the two-year conservation of the monumental Triumph of David at Villanova. The project’s website ( combines not only a timeline of the treatment but a walkthrough of its restoration steps, in-depth reporting on the scientific analysis done, and the ability to view different stages of work and analysis as segments of the whole image. Kristin pointed out that while many institutions are wary of publicizing such sensitive information about the state of their artwork, the Triumph had literally no reputation to uphold: its original assessment had marked it as an insurance loss. The transparency of the Triumph project is refreshing: discussing the decision-making process behind each step and explaining current methodologies. The website is an experiment in laying out a painting’s history on the table, pointing out where there’s room for more research, and inviting the next participants to the table.
Kristin closed the talk with the introduction of MITRA (Materials Information and Technical Resource for Artists). Conceived as a revival of the much-missed AMIEN forum, it will connect artists, conservators, scientists, and educators to discuss best practices. As an interactive forum, hopefully it will become a well of expertise to draw upon when confronted with the misinformation that plagues much of the internet. Though the forum will initially focus on paintings, it will expand as it grows to cover a wide range of topics—wider than its predecessor—including contemporary art materials and concerns, textiles, sculpture, storage, murals, photography, and whatever else the public clamors for, I expect. It will be hosted by the University of Delaware when it is launched, hopefully in the Fall of 2016.