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Northwestern University Collaboration with Art Insitute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago - Northwestern University Program in Conservation Science* Professor Katherine Faber, Northwestern Liaison Dr. Francesca Casadio, Mellon Conservation Scientist This is the nation's first multi-year collaboration in conservation science to involve an art museum and a university. The objectives are to offer a model for integrative and cross-disciplinary collaboration among museums, universities and scientific institutions in an effort to enhance the field of conservation science in the United States as well as to strengthen the Art Institute's research capabilities. During the past year, funded by an initial $50,000 grant from Mellon, Northwestern and the Art Institute demonstrated that interesting conservation problems involving some of the museum's ancient jades and Chinese bronzes existed and could best be addressed collaboratively. The partners will now broaden their work as they continue to conduct important interdisciplinary research and offer education programs focused on fundamental issues involving science and art that require outstanding research quality and intellectual breadth. The new funding will extend the existing conservation science program into three main components:

  • Collaborative research projects focused on Asian art (mainly jades and ancient Chinese bronzes), modern art materials (for paintings and sculptures) and studies of artists' materials and techniques (for scholarly purposes and to assist authentication and determine provenance).
  • Exploratory research grants to develop innovative scientific techniques for looking at art.
  • A seminar series to stimulate creative thinking through presentations and discussions among scientists, curators and conservators. (The seminars in 2006 will be held in the spring and summer.)

The Northwestern faculty currently involved in the program are Faber, who will continue her work determining the mineral composition of certain ancient Chinese jades; David Dunand, James N. and Margie M. Krebs Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Joseph Lambert, Clare Hamilton Hall Professor of Chemistry, whose work involves analyzing the composition and patinas of modern bronzes by artists such as Matisse, Brancusi and Picasso, and investigating the casting technology of bronzes from the early Western Zhou Dynasty using the powerful X-rays at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source; and Kimberly Gray, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, who, using tiny paint chips from Georges Seurat's painting "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," is studying the aging process of the pigment zinc yellow. * Funded by the Mellon Foundation