On a recent Friday afternoon, I took my summer writing workshop students to The Getty Conservation Institute in the hills above Brentwood just a mile or two as the crow flies from our own college campus. The workshop is called Writing in the Sciences, and is funded by a STEM Title III grant.
Since the writers are all biological sciences, chemistry and mathematics majors headed for a career in medicine or research, I wanted to show them that it is possible to combine science with fine arts and humanities, and the perfect place to illustrate this is The Getty Center. Our guide for the day, David Carson, came in on his day off to conduct our tour. He is the Laboratory Manager for the Science Group within the institute. Although the place was loaded down with tourists and summer visitors, we went behind the scenes into areas where security clearance is a must and the general public is not allowed.
We went through the fully equipped research labs complete with electron microscopes and other devices I was not familiar with, but were standard equipment for my students in their course work. Specifically, we looked in on a workstation where scientists were trying to duplicate Jackson Pollock’s drip-and-slash paint patterns on canvas to understand how he created his art. At another station, the focus was on furniture restoration. The two pieces David presented to us were made in different areas of the world with radically different materials. The goal was to be able to identify pigments, adhesives, and metal so that replacement parts could be installed and touch-ups done without damaging the pieces. In still another area, we saw experiments to test the rate of damage and decay on sculpting materials when they are exposed to moisture and salts.
After we finished the tour, the students wandered the galleries, exhibits and gardens. The weather was warm and humid, but it was still a great day to be at the museum. For me, any day at the museum is a great day, and I was happy my students were able to see the humanities and the sciences come together.
|Mount St. Mary's College, Chalon Campus as seen from The Getty Center|