Volume 17, Number 2 .... May 1995

AYMHM - Articles You May Have Missed

by Susana C. Zubiate, Column Editor
"Confocal Microscopy"
by Jeff W. Lichtman in Scientific American, August 1994, pp.40-45.

A technique originally developed in the 1950's but not used and refined until the 1980's, confocal microscopy is "an ultra sophisticated melding of lasers, optics, electromechanical scanning, and computerized image processing" which produces high resolution three dimensional images of a specimen. The essential features of confocal microscopy include: the bright illumination of a spot at some chosen depth in a specimen; the return of all of the reflected light through a small aperture that is aligned with the illuminated region; and the scanning of the brightly illuminated spots in successive planes. When this is coupled with image processing programs that can record the brightness and location of every illuminated spot on every section of the specimen, a two or three dimensional image of the microscopic object can be reconstructed. The result is the ability to see into objects and create three dimensional images of them.

"Mideast Cultural Warfare Not Over"
by Stephanie Cash in Art in America, September 1994, Vol.82, No.9, p.31.

"The Israeli-Palestinian peace accords have had the curious effect of heightening tension over archeological issues in the Middle East." The issue at hand is the repatriation of cultural artifacts.

"The 1954 Hague Convention requires occupying powers to preserve and protect antiquities, sites and cultural treasures for the benefit of the inhabitants of the occupied country" but according to some, the "ownership of artifacts from the West Bank is not clear cut and international law does not provide adequate guidelines for the apportionment of contested antiquities between two peoples laying claim to them".

"Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents"
by Jeff Rothenberg in Scientific American, January 1995, pp. 42-47.

A valuable article in which the author presents a comprehensive and in-depth look at the factors involved in the preservation of digital documentation. The fragility of digital documents is discussed along with the problems faced when trying to preserve them. Temporary solutions related to digital document preservation are proposed.

In the preservation of digital documents, not only is there material degradation to contend with but there is also the danger that information in digital format is being lost as technology evolves. " Information technology continually creates new schemes which often abandon their predecessors instead of subsuming them." The result is that information will be lost because of the inability of new soft and hardware to retrieve or accurately decode the information from antiquated documents. To prevent this loss, documents must be copied onto more contemporary systems frequently enough (once a year) to prevent the media form in which they were encoded, from becoming unreadable. " As archivists tackle this problem, two strategies for the preservation of digital documents have been proposed yet work still needs to be done in order to standardize a preservation method.

"Too Hot to Handle?"
by Silvia Hochfield, in ARTnews, Vol.93, No.7, September 1994, pp.154-159.

Though international experts agree that Leonardo da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with St. Anne is in "bad condition and needs restoration", criticism that initial cleaning tests "aesthetically denatured the painting" has led to the decision to revarnish the test areas and to put the painting back on exhibition in its damaged condition. No more work will be done on St. Anne until the "[appointed international] committee [of specialists] finishes its work". Fear of controversy and negative publicity has the Louvre "testing the waters" with regard to the restoration of their most renown paintings.

"The Raiders of Angkor Wat"
by Alan Boyd; from the liberal "Eastern Express" of Hong Kong in World Press Review, November 1994, p.48.

Many 9th to 15th century artifacts from the site of Angkor Wat in Thailand are under serious threat of looting. "Thai government officials believe the objects from Angkor Wat cross the border over jungle trails, usually with the help of corrupt Cambodian police, and are sold to Bangkok dealers or shipped directly overseas. At least one of the routes ends in Hong Kong, where the artifacts disappear into the antiquities market that counts unwary international museums among its prime customers."

"The Right Stuff"
by Corey S. Powel in Scientific American, January 1995, pp. 30-31.

Software companies are trying to get digital rights to museum holdings to use on "electronic bulletin boards or to incorporate them in CD-ROM and other multimedia products." Though many museums are already utilizing digitized images and making their collections available on CD-ROM, or the Internet, some are still concerned with the issue of copyright. In a meeting held last summer, museum directors met to "consider the philosophical implications of digital art and to sort out questions about image ownership in the electronic age".

"A Gallery of Fakes?"
by Maria Chiara Bonazzi; from the centrist "La Stampa" of Turin in World Press Review, December 1994, p.49.

The National Gallery in London is coming under fire from art historians and critics who claim that the museum administration is "concealing certain documents on the origin and care of [art] works" in the museum. They are asserting that the museum errs on the side of "the more prestigious hypothesis" when it comes to the attribution of world renown works of art, and that "over-zealous" techniques are used in English art restoration.

"Americans Aid Kobe's Museums"
by Suzanne Muchnic, in the LA Times. Calendar section, March 26, 1995, pp. 66-69.

Jerry Poday, Getty Museum anti-quities conservator, and Barbara Roberts, decorative arts conservator in private practice in Seattle, traveled to Kobe in early February in the aftermath of the Jan. 17 devastating earthquake. The two specialists, who have extensive experience in protecting artworks from earthquakes and other natural disasters, were invited to Kobe by the Japanese Ministry of Culture as consultants on Western Art. The team visited the Otani Memorial Museum, the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, the Kobe Municipal Museum, and a private facility.

Although museum problems were minor when compared with buildings that had been reduced to rubble, the conservators were shocked by what they found. "The amount of vertical lift and the displacement of buildings was most surprising," Roberts said. "Whole structures moved up and down, and side to side--north, south, east, and west."

The visit formed the ground work for valuable international relationships, according to the conservators. "We've gone from having no communication with the Japanese to a flurry of communication, which should have long term benefits," Podany said.

One immediate result is that Japanese conservators are linking up with their foreign colleagues on the Internet. In addition, preliminary plans are in the works to organize a larger meeting between Japanese conservators and their American counterparts who have done seismic work.

"We have the same problems and we both live in high-tech societies," Podany said. "Collaboration can make a big difference."

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