JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 85 to 104)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 85 to 104)


Niccolo Leo Caldararo


To return to Canadian archaeology, passed over after the discussion of Leechman's early contribution, it has had a rapid and intense involvement with conservation. William Todd, Chief Conservator of the Royal Ontario Museum until his death in 1963, published several papers on the conservation of materials, his subjects ranging from bone preservation (1941) to restoration of Chinese grave figurines (1952) to preservation research in Chinese bronzes. In 1966 the British Columbian Provincial Museum recruited its first conservator, who was the only one west of Toronto for the next four years (Ward, 1978:9). Care of collections prior to this date had been executed by other staff specialists. In 1970 the first course in conservation was established at the University of Victoria, entitled “Conservation of Antiquities,” as a course for curators. The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) was originally conceived in 1972 at Ottawa and two centers were established in 1974, the Pacific Regional Center and an Atlantic Regional Center, followed by a small facility in Quebec in 1977, with Erika Schaffer the principal scientist involved in the preservation research program for archaeological and anthropological materials of the CCI. Her work as a conservation scientist both in identifying materials of composite artifacts and designing treatment procedures has added considerably to the development of an organized methodology (1971, 1974, 1976, 1981), as has the work of another Canadian scientist, Mary-Lou Florian (1976, 1977, 1978, 1981). The development in Canada of the application of scientific techniques in archaeological conservation has been rapid especially in wet site and frozen site problems (Hett, 1978). Mac-Donald presents a concise outline of the development of wet site archaeology in Europe and North America in his 1977 article.

While conservation in Australia dates well into the last century with the establishment of a general lab in New South Wales (Lloyd, 1981), conservation work there has benefited from conservators with a broad range of skills and interests from fine arts to archaeology. One example is Boustead, who treated a wide range of ethnographic objects (Boustead, 1960; 1966). Australian archaeologists have written several articles on both field practice and museum work (e.g. Macintosh, 1968; McCarthy, 1970). Their publications in general reflect a close relationship with European (especially British) conservation efforts as well as local experimentation. Boustead, like many Australian conservators, learned his trade as an apprentice and later augmented his skills by tours of study in Europe, mainly England. Many Australian cultural institutions provided training for other surrounding nations through funds provided by the Commonwealth; these ranged from India to Pacific Island nations.

The tradition of the independent efforts of museum preparators in setting up conservation facilities is seen in the creation of the first conservation lab in New Zealand in 1953 (Thompson, 1985). The Pacific Regional Center, at its Honolulu facility in Hawaii, has trained local residents and treated regional collections from the Pacific Islands, as well as sent conservators out on location (Lee, 1978). The Pacific Regional Center resulted from a study undertaken by Werner in 1973 and sponsored by the Bishop Museum to determine the needs of Pacific Region museum institutions which led to the establishment of the Pacific Center in 1974 (UNESCO, 1980).

The Soviets and East Europeans developed parallel technology in the application of materials and have conducted extensive research and experimentation with synthetics (Nogid & Rozdnyak, 1965; Tomashevich, 1969). Grabar published a restoration manual in 1960 which presents a mixture of synthetic (new) and old traditional methods with some criticism of the poor aging results of some particular traditional methods (Kovostovetz and Thomson, 1963). The same can be said of the Japanese (Higuchi and Aoki, 1976; Aoki, 1985).

Concerning the Japanese, Yamasaki (1957:83) places the first technical conservation work in 1919 with the government-formed committee on the wall paintings of the Horyuji temple at Nara. An attempt to stabilize the peeling paint was undertaken using natural resins (copal), but the trial in a small area failed to produce satisfactory results and was discontinued. In 1933 Professor S. Taki of Tokyo University organized a small study group of art historians, physicists, chemists, biologists and architects. Discussions of methods of repair and conservation of art objects and studies of scientific and new methods of repair compared to traditional methods were undertaken. In 1947 the group was organized into the “Association of Scientific Research in Antiques” with Professor Y. Shibata as president. A journal was established by this group, Scientific Papers on Japanese Antiques and Art Crafts, the first issue appearing in 1951, although today the primary Japanese publication for conservation is Science for Conservation.

In addition to these efforts, the Institute of Art Research in Tokyo, founded in 1930, was reorganized in 1952 as the Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties, with a Department of Conservation added to it (Yamasaki, 1957:83). This Department of Conservation was housed in the Tokyo National Museum and was concerned mainly with the conservation of paintings and sculptures in temples and museums. This Department of Conservation was later changed to the Department of Conservation Science and a Department of Restoration Techniques was added (Ito, 1979:xi).

In 1902 the Archaeological Survey of India proposed a chemical branch, which was established in 1917 when a laboratory was set up in the Indian Museum in Calcutta. Later the laboratory was transferred to Dehre Dun and work organized on methods established at the British Museum Laboratory (Swarnakamal, 1975:25). A laboratory was set up at the National Museum, New Delhi, in 1958 as a central major research facility (Gairola, 1960; Agrawal, 1963). T. R. Gairola, Chemist, National Museum of India, New Delhi, published a Handbook of Chemical Conservation in 1960 which offered recommendations for treatments of all types of objects found in Indian museums; the handbook is organized by physical composition (organic, metals and siliceous). Basically it is a manual for museum workers, written for the post-graduate students of the Department of Museology of the University of Baroda, although it does contain examples of treatments of archaeological materials. Gairola draws heavily from the European and American literature and his own extensive experience.

Shortly after the establishment of a central conservation laboratory at the Baroda Museum for the State of Gujarat, Swarnakamal published a book, Protection and Conservation of Museum Collections (1975), which is entirely concerned with treatments in museums. Individual treatments of archaeological materials were from time to time published in several Indian journals including Journal of Indian Museums, and Ancient India. Other Indian conservation laboratories were established at Lucknow, and at the National Museum, New Delhi. In 1977, O. P. Agrawal, who studied under Gairola as well as at the Instituto Centrale del Restauro in Rome, published a book on the Care and Preservation of Museum Objects, one of a series of books on conservation in Indian museums and in Southeast Asia; it includes a bibliography on conservation in India. Agrawal is the Director of the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property, Lucknow, and has edited a journal, Conservation of Cultural Property in India, from 1967 to the present. He produced several studies on the conservation needs of Asian nations as well as edited several books, including Conservation in the Tropics (1973), Documentation in Museums (1974) and The Small Museum (1975). His survey of conservation needs and techniques of Southeast Asian cultural properties, originally published in Museum in 1975 as Conservation in South and Southeast Asia, was expanded and republished by Butterworths in 1984.

In Africa, archaeological and anthropological conservation has been derived in most part from European efforts, particularly British and French. A manual for conservation of collections of Middle African museums was produced by Kennedy in 1959 and contains the usual organization, beginning with the effects of climate on objects, the agents of deterioration (insects, microorganisms, etc.) and then an overview of restoration techniques. A substantial number of local institutions have developed techniques for the extraction and cleaning of fossil materials, derived from traditional methods in paleontology, especially in Kenya and South Africa. For the purposes of this paper, conservation efforts in paleoanthropology will be considered a separate literature and will not be covered.

Through the agency of international organizations several conservation scientists were able to travel widely sharing skills and initiating programs. One of these was Paul Coremans (1968:135–139; Tahk, 1984:16–25), whose energies and interests carried him from his base in Brussels at the Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique to sites in Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Peru, Mexico, and the United States of America.

F. Mairinger12 of the Insitut für Farbenlehre und Farbenchemie, Academie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, recently visited China for the purpose of investigating analytical practice in conservation. He found their level of expertise based on pre-World War II technology, although they apparently are being influenced by Japanese experience and new Western methods.13

UNESCO, through its Museums and Monuments series, published a volume prepared by the International Centre for the study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (Rome), now ICCROM, The Conservation of Cultural Property (1968). This was of special interest as it was written with reference to problems related to tropical conditions and situations with few technical resources. Articles were prepared by such workers as Daifuku from Bangkok and Andrade from Brazil. Other shorter documents have resulted from special seminars or conferences supported by UNESCO and ICOM. Among these are the reports written by Werner on the Conservation of Ethnographical Collections (1968) and Conservation of Cultural Materials in Humid Climates (Regional Seminar) published by the Australian National Conference for UNESCO in 1980.

In Argentina Tellchea (1981) produced a comprehensive text, Enciclopedia de la Conservacion y Restauracion, particularly designed for cultural materials found in South America and written for a wide audience, from craftsmen to conservators, as well as diverse environmental settings.

Copyright © 1987 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works