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Subject: Early history of conservation and technical studies at the Fogg Art Museum

Early history of conservation and technical studies at the Fogg Art Museum

From: Francesca Bewer <fbewer>
Date: Friday, September 25, 1998
The Harvard University Art Museums has initiated a research project
on the early history of conservation and technical studies at the
Fogg Art Museum (1920-1950).

In 1928 Edward W. Forbes established the Department for Technical
Studies at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, the first
department for scientific research in conservation and the study of
artists materials and techniques in an American museum.  For over
two decades, this department, recently renamed the Straus Center for
Conservation and Technical Studies, played a key role in
establishing conservation science as a new academic discipline in
the United States. George L. Stout, Rutherford J. Gettens, and Alan
Burroughs, among others, developed general conservation standards,
new methods of treatment, and the theoretical foundations for these
treatments. The department's periodical Technical Studies in the
Field of the Fine Arts quickly became a unique arena for the
dissemination of these findings and other developments in the
interrelated fields of restoration, conservation and technical

Under Forbes' directorship, the technical research conducted at the
Fogg carried over into art history and connoisseurship. First-hand
technical studies were integrated into the teaching of art history
at Harvard's Department of Fine Arts, affecting generations of art
historians and museum professionals. Moreover, members of the
Department of Technical Studies were called upon for their expertise
to help with questions of attribution and dating.

In recent years, the history of conservation has become the subject
of increasing scholarly attention, resulting in a growing number of
studies and publications. In addition to research on the history of
materials, treatments, and technical examinations, conservators and
art historians share an increasing interest in the history of
ethical issues, such as the early development of general
conservation standards, the reception of conservation treatments,
and the role of the object in art-historical and museological
discourse. As a nucleus for scientific studies of works of art, the
Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Harvard
University Art Museums was also central to the broader history of

Subjects of study will include the context in which the Department
was established and in which it developed; the history of treatments
of paintings, works on paper, and objects; development of methods of
technical examination; and the role of the Department in
establishing general conservation standards and international
conservation associations. The study will concentrate on the
activities of Edward W. Forbes, Alan Burroughs, George L. Stout, and
Rutherford J. Gettens, but will also examine the work of their
students and colleagues, such as Richard D. Buck, Evelyn Ehrlich,
Minna H. Horwitz, Sheldon Keck, R. Arcadius Lyon, Murray Pease and
Daniel V. Thompson.

The study is being undertaken by Francesca Bewer and Ron Spronk,
Research Associates for Technical Studies at the Straus Center for
Conservation, and will result in a publication, the final form of
which has yet to be determined. The researchers welcome suggestions,
comments, tips and stories relating to the topic. They can be
reached at

    The Straus Center for Conservation
    Harvard University Art Museums
    32 Quincy Street
    Cambridge MA 02138
    Fax: 617-495-0322
    fbewer [at] fas__harvard__edu and
    spronk [at] fas__harvard__edu.

Francesca G. Bewer
Research Associate
Straus Center for Conservation

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:31
                Distributed: Tuesday, September 29, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-31-001
Received on Friday, 25 September, 1998

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