Volume 6, Number 1, Jan. 1984, pp.6-8

The J. Paul Getty Conservation Institute


In May 1981 the J. Paul Getty Trust, with Harold Williams newly appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer, began a year of exploration to determine where it would focus its energies. In May 1982 the trustees announced a commitment to the formation of three entities in addition to the growth of the museum in Malibu. These were:

An additional museum will be built to house paintings, drawings, decorative art and illuminated manuscripts, while the antiquities will remain at the present facility. The Center for the History of Art and Humanities, the Conservation Institute and the new museum building will be located at a recently purchased 162 acre site at Brentwood Park in Los Angeles. The completion date is projected to be at the close of the decade.

The J. Paul Getty Conservation Institute

Based on a study of literature, visits to major conservation facilities in the United States, Canada, France, Italy, England and Germany, and on conversation with leaders in the conservation community; the Trust has defined a program through which the Conservation Institute will become a major international presence as well as an important regional focus for conservation activity. Although the Institute will not engage in conservation treatment per se, its programs are designed to improve the quality of conservation in this country and abroad. The Institute's philosophy is based on a belief that scientific, art historical and practical restoration considerations are all integral components in the conservation treatment of an art object. Its programs are divided into three areas: advanced conservation training, applied scientific analysis and research, and information collection and dissemination.

Conservation Training

Training programs will be set at the advanced level because basic conservation training is already available, but there remains a gap between the skills currently taught and those required for a fully qualified conservator. There will be a two-part curriculum which emphasizes collaboration among conservation practitioners, scientists, curators and art historians.

  1. Mid-career training programs held at the Getty or at other locations will bring together small groups of professionals in areas of art history, conservation and conservation science for special seminars, workshops and colloquia.
  2. Extended internships, advanced apprenticeship and professional exchanges will be arranged by the Institute for individuals who have received basic training from a recognized program or who have worked in the profession for a period of time. The participants of this international program will spend a term in residence at the Getty in an interdisciplinary course before possible additional apprenticeship or internship at another institution. Getty funding of this program will include sharing costs incurred by the host institution. It is hoped that these advance apprenticeships provided at modest cost, will be a true support to institutions doing quality work.

In addition, the Getty has engaged the services of the National Institute for Conservation (NIC) to analyze and evaluate the three major graduate level conservation training programs in the United States. The NIC will suggest ways the Getty might relate to these programs.

A training program director has not yet been appointed. For the time being development and coordination is handled by JANET BRIDGLAND, the Conservation Program Officer.

Scientific Analysis and Research

The Institute's laboratory will render analytical services and conduct research which has specific conservation applications. The Institute is not concerned with routine or other types of analysis which may be obtained elsewhere, but rather with substantive conservation questions for which museums and conservation specialists in this country cannot find effective answers. Museums in Southern California will benefit directly from a cooperative alliance between the Institute's laboratory and the Conservation Center at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Institute is also developing relationships with other facilities in the area.

The Institute's analytical laboratory is interested in evaluating commercial and proprietary products used in conservation. Findings and possible product specifications would be interfaced with that of other agencies such as the National Bureau of Standards and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM).

The research program currently housed at the museum in Malibu, is directed by Frank Preusser, formerly with the Doerner Institute in Munich. The lab is researching conservation procedures which are currently in use or are proposed for use, as well as areas where research is needed but is not being done. It is anticipated that from time to time the Institute will contact or collaborate with industry, universities or other research facilities which have particular expertise.

The first topic for long term research is coatings. Because coatings are used in all areas of conservation, research will not be restricted to one particular application. The project covers both non-applied research which deals strictly with the analysis of chemical and physical properties of coating materials, and with application oriented research. Coatings will be viewed in terms of aesthetic value, applicability, reversibility and compatibility with the art object.

Another project already underway is the study of materials used in exhibitions and their effects on artworks.

Further, the Getty may hold special conferences, seminars and colloquia on subjects of key interest.

Information Collection and Dissemination

The Getty Information Center will provide: 1) access to a comprehensive collection of conservation literature and documentary material, foreign language publications and out-of-print books and journals; 2) information about information, i.e. directories, indexes and so on; and 3) materials designed to narrow the gap between research and publication. Translation services may be offered. Among its resources will be a data bank with information on materials and artists' techniques and lists of organizations engaged in research or offering useful services and/or products. Information will be on computer and made available internationally.

An active publications program is planned. For example, The Getty has recently assumed operational and financial responsibility for the Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (AATA). The Getty would like to support and improve existing publications as well as to encourage new ones. This effort would likely be coordinated with the ICOM Conservation Committee, IIC, NIC and AIC.

The Getty Conservation Information Project

The developmental stages of the Getty Institute's Information Project is directed by Gerald Hoepfner who is executive director of the Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory. This two year project based in Williamstown is researching the information needs of the conservation field and designing a computerized data system to meet those needs.

This article is based on two news releases from the Getty Trust. Further inquiry should be directed to Janet Bridgland, Conservation Program Officer, J. Paul Getty Trust, 1875 Century Park East, Suite Z300, Los Angeles, California 90067.

 [WAAC]  [WAAC Newsletter]  [WAAC Newsletter Contents]  [Search WAAC Newsletter]  [Disclaimer]

[Search all CoOL documents]