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Scientific Research

The Department of Scientific Research investigates the material aspects of works of art in the Museum's collections. Scientists in the department cooperate with conservators and curators in studying, preserving, and conserving the works in the Museum's collections, and also pursue innovative research in analytical techniques, preventive conservation, and treatment methodologies.

Kongo Exhibition Blog

The Materials That Make Mangaaka

Ellen Howe, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation; and Adriana Rizzo, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research

Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

During the early stages of preparing for the exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty, a team of conservators and scientists began a technical investigation of the large power figures known as Mangaaka, which were created in the Chiloango River Region on the Loango Coast during the second half of the nineteenth century. The initial focus of the investigation was the materials and methods of construction of our own Mangaaka, but shortly thereafter—through collaboration with a number of American and European museums and individuals whose collections house these figures—the study expanded to include a majority of the other fourteen Mangaaka power figures now on view in the exhibition.

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Kongo Exhibition Blog

Handle with Care: A Mangaaka Power Figure's Journey from Rome to New York

Helina Gebremedhen, Graduate Intern, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Marco Leona, David H. Koch Scientist in Charge, Department of Scientific Research; Christine Giuntini, Conservator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; and Ronald E. Street, Senior Manager of 3D Image, Molding, and Prototyping, Merchandise and Retail Department

Posted: Friday, October 9, 2015

The exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty (on view through January 3, 2016) culminates with an astonishing display of fifteen N'kisi Nkondi Mangaaka power figures—the result of an eight-year research project that began with the Metropolitan's acquisition of its own example in 2008. On permanent display at the entrance to the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, this work is presented for the first time with fourteen of the greatest examples drawn from international collections in Berlin, Leipzig, Liverpool, Mainz, Manchester, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Tervuren (Belgium), and Zug (Switzerland), as well as American institutions in Dallas and Detroit.

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The Panel Answers: Uncovering the History of a Tenth-Century Egyptian Panel

Mechthild Baumeister, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation; Adriana Rizzo, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research; and Gaëlle Gantier, Former Intern, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2015

As conservators and conservation scientists, we are responsible for the technical examination of works of art here at the Met. When Matt Saba, an Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Islamic Art, asked us to work with him to investigate the original function and decoration of a tenth-century relief panel (fig.1), we were thrilled to undertake the necessary detective work. As a result of our investigation, we learned that the panel was once part of an architectural element, but also that the partially surviving polychrome decoration was applied after the panel was removed from its original context and repurposed.

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Unravelling the Hidden Production History of Sgraffito Ware from Nishapur

Elena Basso, Former Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Department of Scientific Research

Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two years ago, during my time as a visiting scholar in the Met's Department of Scientific Research, I took advantage of the opportunity to spend time in the Museum's galleries. I had been particularly fascinated by the small but extremely interesting gallery dedicated to the archaeological excavation of Nishapur, Iran (gallery 452), the objects of which were of high aesthetic quality and displayed incredibly skillful craftsmanship.

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Now at the Met

Collaboration on the Museum Mile: A Met-Guggenheim Study of the Work of Alberto Burri

Federica Pozzi, Assistant Conservation Research Scientist, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Julie Arslanoglu, Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015

What began as a casual conversation between Marco Leona, David H. Koch Scientist in Charge of the Met's Department of Scientific Research, and Carol Stringari, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator of the Guggenheim Foundation, has grown over the past ten months into an unprecedented collaboration aiming to advance the role of science within curatorial and conservation-based scholarship at both institutions. The partnership—described in detail on the Guggenheim's blog—has established a framework for scientific research within the Guggenheim conservation studio by creating a position for the first scientist on staff and granting access to the Met's fully equipped chemical laboratories and advanced analytical instrumentation. Conservators and scientists from the two museums are currently sharing resources, identifying projects of mutual interest, and jointly studying objects in their respective collections.

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Now at the Met

Hidden Secrets of Ancient Egyptian Technology

Anna Serotta, Independent Conservator; and Federico Carò, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research

Posted: Friday, May 22, 2015

Archaeological objects and works of art in museum collections are not only treasured for their aesthetic qualities, but are also repositories of invaluable information, often concealed at a first sight, about the civilizations that created them. Among the many beautiful pieces in the collection of the Met's Department of Egyptian Art, it is interesting to note one modest stone fragment (fig.1), the scientific investigation of which has provided a clue that could solve a long-time debate among Egyptologists and historians of technologies: the use of high-performance abrasives.

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Now at the Met

Conserving the Saint Martin Series: Technical Analysis of Fifteenth-Century Embroideries

Giulia Chiostrini, Assistant Conservator, Department of Textile Conservation

Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015

Seven embroideries, six roundels, and one arch panel depicting scenes from the life of Saint Martin are now on view in the exhibition Scenes from the Life of St. Martin: Franco-Flemish Embroidery from the Met Collection. These fifteenth-century textiles were embroidered with dyed silk, silver, and gilt–silver metal threads on a linen plain weave underlaid with two layers of linen plain weave (fig. 1).

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Now at the Met

Restoring Bhairava's Ear

Pascale Patris, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2015

In 2012, this imposing Bhairava's mask came to the Museum as a part of an important donation from The Zimmerman Family Collection, and it is now on display in the newly renovated gallery 252. The sixteenth-century gilt and polychrome copper mask of Bhairava from Nepal had a significant loss to its appearance—its right ear was missing, and its attribute, a large copper pendant earring for the left ear, had been used as a substitute.

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Now at the Met

Beneath the Surface: Technical Analysis of a Vajrabhairava Figurine

Mandira Chhabra, Assistant Conservator, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, India; Daniel Hausdorf, Associate Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation; and Pascale Patris, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015

A gift to the Museum in 1949, this image of Vajrabhairava was not placed on display for many years (fig. 1). In conjunction with the work's display in the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, however, the Departments of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research examined this figure in order to shed light on the materials and the production technique of this unusual representation.

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In Circulation

The Art of Japanese Books

Mindell Dubansky, Preservation Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Earlier this month, the Thomas J. Watson Library sponsored two events devoted to the scholarship of Japanese books of the Edo period. These events were developed to create an environment of collegial collaboration surrounding the subject of Japanese books and to celebrate the Museum's acquisition of the Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books, a group of over 250 ehon (illustrated books) from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.

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