PhD Defence Mariana Pinto: Science and conservation at the British Museum Laboratory (1919-1934)

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Portrait of Dr Alexander Scott (1853-1947), first Head of the Research Laboratory © The Trustees of the British Museum
Portrait of Dr Alexander Scott (1853-1947) © The Trustees of the British Museum

On 26 November, Mariana Pinto defends her dissertation 'Science and conservation at the British Museum Laboratory (1919-1934)'. In this dissertation, she conducts historical research on the collaboration between science and conservation in the British Museum after World War I.

Science and conservation

Collaboration between science and conservation is considered standard practice in museums nowadays, while discussions about the limits and potentialities of such collaboration prevail in daily conservation work, publications, congresses and other activities within the field. However, while the treatment of artworks and archaeological objects has a long tradition, collaborative practices involving science in the conservation of cultural heritage are relatively recent.

Processes of acceptance

Science-based conservation became broadly accepted between 1930 and 1950. Many museum laboratories were also established around the world during this period. But how did science become integrated as a fundamental aspect of conservation between 1930 and 1950? And what role did laboratories play? The investigation of collaborative practices between scientists and those in charge of the care and treatment of artworks during the interbellum years, shows the processes by which science-based conservation came into place. 

British Museum after World War I

This dissertation starts after the end of World War I, when the Trustees of the British Museum (BM) faced the deterioration of a large part of the museum´s collection, and the chemist Alexander Scott (1853–1947) was asked to supervise its care and treatment. The creation and first twelve years of the BM Laboratory, with Scott as its first director, is the main focus of this study. Her research ends in 1934, when the first steps of the introduction of chemistry into conservation training were taken at the Courtauld Institute of Art, influenced also by the ideas generated at the BM Laboratory.

Start date and time
End date and time
Location
Academiegebouw, Domplein 29
PhD candidate
Mariana Pinto
Dissertation
Science and conservation at the British Museum Laboratory (1919-1934)
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. S.G.M. Dupré
Prof. E. Hendriks