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News Student Blog: J. Paul Getty Museum

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​Figure 1. WUDPAC Fellow Madeline Corona cleaning the pietre dure inlay on the top section of the Borghese-Windsor Cabinet (Image: Magdalena Solano)

Go to the website of the J. Paul Getty Museum and you will see a small, but important, difference from most other museums – an .edu domain name. For the past six months, I have been privileged to complete my third-year internship surrounded not only by incredible examples of European art, but also by visiting scholars, researchers, conservators, and scientists who have come to the Getty from around the world in order to study art and collaborate on its preservation. The Getty is more than just a museum, or a center for research. It is an educational institution that aims to generate, promote, and disseminate scholarship on art and conservation worldwide.

My internship has been spent in the Decorative Arts and Sculpture Conservation Department in the Museum, which is located in the Getty Center and features a spectacular collection of European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, photography, sculpture, and decorative arts. The Center, which is one of two Getty campuses, is also home to other programs including the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Getty Research Institute (GRI), and the Getty Foundation, which are all overseen by the J. Paul Getty Trust. The other Getty campus in the Pacific Palisades is home to the Getty Villa, which houses an extensive collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Along with 30 other interns, I have the opportunity to not only work with a variety of colleagues to complete my own projects, but also to learn from the constant stream of lectures, workshops, and symposia that are hosted by the various programs on campus. In many ways, my internship at the Getty has served as an extension of my time at WUDPAC as I delve deeper into the conservation and analytical techniques that I learned during my second year.

Figure 2. Detail of the ornate decoration on the cabinet (Image: J. Paul Getty Museum).

​One such technique is pyrolysis gas-chromatography mass spectrometry, a method of chemical analysis that I am using in a research project focused on the study of ebony wood specimens. The goal of the project, which I am working on with conservator Arlen Heginbotham and GCI scientist Michael Schilling, is to be able to differentiate species of wood in the Diospyros genus, as these species are often indistinguishable through visual examination. Identifying ebony species in objects could provide important information about the object's history, as well as a greater understanding of historical trade routes. One aspect of the project that I would never have expected to be a part of my third-year experience has been the need to learn Python, a computer programming language. As I work with large, complex data sets, I have found that it is an important skill in order to be able to utilize machine-learning algorithms (which can change, or learn, when exposed to new data) in order to classify samples.

​My research also relates to an upcoming project, the examination and treatment of a 17th-century cabinet with pietre dure inlay and ebony components (fig. 1). The Borghese-Windsor Cabinet, made in 1620 in Rome for Pope Paul V and later purchased by King George IV of England, was recently acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum. I am fortunate enough to be a part of the team of conservators, which includes my supervisors Arlen Heginbotham, Julie Wolfe, and Jane Bassett, who will be responsible for preparing this magnificent piece of furniture for display. Comprised of wood, silver, gilt-bronze, and a variety of decorative stones including lapis lazuli (fig. 2), this cabinet will challenge me to combine the treatment, documentation, and analytical techniques that I learned as an objects major at WUDPAC with the new techniques that I am being exposed to at the Getty. The size and complexity of this object also means that this will be a highly collaborative treatment, drawing on the expertise of each conservator in the lab. As we begin to examine the cabinet, I am looking forward to uncovering new treatment and research questions with my colleagues and am excited to be spending my third-year at an institution where exploring these lines of inquiry is not only possible, but also highly encouraged.

—Madeline Corona, WUDPAC Class of 2017

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​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2017 Fellow Madeline Corona discusses her third-year internship in the Decorative Arts and Sculpture Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

​​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2017 Fellow Madeline Corona discusses her third-year internship in the Decorative Arts and Sculpture Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

2/28/2017
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
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  • University of Delaware
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