Other Thoughts…

I know I have alread summarized my main research findings from the summer in my previous post, but I wanted to flush out just a bit more some of the other lessons I learned from myexperience this summer while I wait at home for the impending hurricane doom to decend.¬† ūüôā¬†

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The End is a New Beginning

Well the end of the summer has come and it is almost time to pack up and head back to Williamsburg for school.  But first Id like to let everyone know how the last couple weeks of research went.  As the end of summer drew nearer, the pace of work in our lab picked up.  There was so much to do in so little time! 

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Lab Field Trip

Last Friday, our lab was given a very unique opportunity.¬† A contact of ours at the Smithsonian offered to take us on a tour of the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute in Maryland.¬† Naturally, we couldn’t say no!¬† Our tour guide was a conservation scientist for the Smithsonian specializing in the study of fine art using GC/MS and FT-IR (sorry for the science jargon).¬†¬†¬†But, we¬† soon found out that¬†her knowledge and expertise expanded far beyond these particular areas.¬† One by one she took us into every single conservation and science lab she could, giving us background information on what kinds of instruments and equipment we were seeing in each room and what kinds of projects they were being used for.¬† The applications of some of them extended far beyond what I could ever have imagined.¬† One of the most fascinating examples she gave us was in the Mass Spectrometry Room.¬† Researchers were using a Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometer to look at small bone samples from a Civil War burial site.¬† Based on the readout the instrument produced, the scientists¬†were trying to¬†determine if the soldier’s diet was more grain based or corn based.¬† From this info, the remains¬†could then be classified as more likely belonging to a Union soldier (grain based diet) or a Confederate soldier¬†(corn based diet).¬† While she never gave us an idea of how sucessful this project had been so far, I was very impressed by the kind of thinking and problem solving skills that these scientists were utilizing to answer all sorts of questions about the past.¬† In the process we hardly noticed that what was originally supposed to be a 90 minute tour had turned into three hours with all the questions we were asking.¬† This experience completely confirmed for me how much I want to pursue a career in this field!¬†¬† However, before I can start thinking about that and the many steps required between senior year and a job, I must first¬†finish the last week of summer research!¬† I can’t believe we are almost done.¬† So much has happened, including a recent break through with those tricky blue/green pigments I mentioned earlier, so hopefully I will have a final summary and update for everyone soon!

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A New Mystery to Solve….

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of returning to the Colonial Williamsburg Paintings Conservation Lab with my research advisor¬†to pick up a few more historic art samples for analysis.¬† However, this time instead of analyzing samples from 18th century oil paintings,¬†we were given¬†some samples from a 19th century painted dining room¬†referred to as¬†the “Carolina Room.”¬† This room was painted in the 1830s for a plantation owner in North Carolina and includes some very unique and interesting details, the most notable being the intricate “Vue of New York” scene painted above the mantle as well as painting techniques designed to simulate more expensive woods, marble, and wallpaper around the room.¬† (For more details check out this link: http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/summer08/carolina.cfm)

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Getting Started

After getting settled back in to campus and reacclimating to the Williamsburg weather, our lab hit the ground running.  The first two weeks were a flurry of planning, reading, organizing and ordering supplies.  After concluding the semester with a letter (short article) published about our findings in the fleshtones of paintings by Robert Feke and Sir Joshua Reynolds, we knew there was still many more tests that need to be performed in order to prove that our techniques of pigment identification with Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) and correllated flourescence is practical and widely applicable for use in the art conservation community. 

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