Using a Cross-disciplinary Investigation to Inform Questions about an Insecurely Provenanced Middle Eastern Manuscript: A Case Study of a Middle Eastern Manuscript

By Sophie Lewincamp, Nicole Tse, Petronella Nel, Marcelle Scott and Robyn Sloggett.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Cultural materials conservation harnesses, builds and conveys knowledge with the aim that cultures will be preserved, sustained and strengthened. Materials science investigations have a very particular place in cultural materials conservation; and, together with historical, cultural and social studies, help to develop ethical and policy frameworks for cultural preservation. This interdisciplinary framework presents many challenges; materials science develops fundamental knowledge, and cultural materials conservation provides preservation solutions based on societal-driven questions. The transfer of fundamental knowledge into evidence-based practice and the method by which findings support the development of expertise in each field is also of interest. From a materials conservation perspective, this paper examines these issues in relation to a collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts belonging to the University of Melbourne. The manuscripts were acquired between 1959 – 1973 through booksellers and visits to the Middle East, and although some records of these transactions remain, the provenance of the majority of the material is unclear. Thus, the object itself provides the starting point for reconstructing, evaluating and integrating evidence.

Keywords: Cultural Materials Conservation, Material Science, Interdisciplinary, Social Impacts of Science, Evidence-based Research

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.33-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.009MB).

Sophie Lewincamp

Paper Conservator, Center for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Sophie coordinates the Masters treatment subjects at the Center for Cultural Materials and specializes in paper conservation. She is also conducting PhD research into the Middle Eastern manuscript collection housed within the Melbourne University collection. She has also worked for various Australian national institutions and overseas as a conservation fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

Dr. Nicole Tse

ARC Postdoctorate Fellow, Center for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Tse is currently an Australian Research Council Postdoctorate Fellow at the Center for Cultural Materials Conservation investigating the twentieth century through painting. This major research initiative combines the expertise of conservation, art history, materials science, chemistry, curatorial studies and heritage management, and involves ten collaborating institutions across six countries and nine researchers. On the project, she is continuing to investigate research questions raised as part of her doctoral thesis, The Characterization of Oil Paintings in Tropical Southeast Asia. As part of her long commitment to conservation in Southeast Asia, she has delivered a number of training workshops, research projects and diplomatic assignments in seven Southeast Asian countries. She is also a founding member of the Asia Pacific Twentieth Century Conservation Art Network.

Dr. Petronella Nel

Lecturer, Center for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Nel is a lecturer and researcher at the Center for Cultural Materials Conservation. She has qualifications in art and science, with a BSC (Honors), PhD in chemistry and a Master of Arts in cultural materials conservation. She is involved with the teaching and research programs at the Center for Cultural Materials Conservation. Her research interests include the non-invasive analysis of artifacts, the development of scientific techniques to conservation, and the analysis and assessment of adhesives used to repair archaeological pottery.

Marcelle Scott

Academic Programs Coordinator, Center for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Marcelle earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science with a focus in cultural materials conservation, specialised in objects conservation, and a Graduate Diploma of Arts in Archaeology. She recently completed the Graduate Certificate in University Teaching from the University of Melbourne. Since joining the Center in 2001, she has been responsible for the development and delivery of our teaching and research programs. She has over twenty years of experience in the conservation profession, working in state institutions and with community museums. She was national president of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) from 1999–2001, and is the editor of the peer-reviewed AICCM Bulletin. She is a recipient of the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. She was selected for one of the prestigious 2007/2008 Conservation Guest Scholar awards from the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles for research in the areas of conservation pedagogy and interdisciplinarity.

Dr. Robyn Sloggett

Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic, Australia

Robyn is the Director of the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include attribution and authentication of Australian paintings, the development of the Australian art market, collection development and history, the investigation of the materials and techniques of artists, and the preservation of cultural materials held in Australian Indigenous communities. She holds qualifications in art history, philosophy, and cultural materials conservation (applied science). She has a PhD from the University of Melbourne.