Portland Business Journal: PSU lands $1M Mellon grant to save valuable art from an untimely demise
Author: Erik Siemers, Portland Business Journal
Posted: October 6, 2017

Read the original story in the Portland Business Journal.

Portland State University will use a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create the region's first lab dedicated to preserving and restoring valuable artwork.

The Pacific Northwestern Consortium for the Science of Cultural Heritage Conservation at PSU, the first conservation science lab in the Pacific Northwest, will be led by PSU Associate Chemistry Professor Tami Lasseter Clare, whose work blending art and chemistry has helped save several valuable pieces of art from peeling, fading and cracking.

Clare's use of science to preserve art — she was part of the team that studied the structural integrity of a Han Chinese Dynasty Money Tree piece at the Portland Art Museum in 2009 — was key in landing the Mellon grant, the university said.

“With this generous grant support from the Mellon Foundation, Portland State and other members of the consortium will now have new tools to conserve the Pacific Northwest’s deep and rich art collection,” Clare, an associate professor of chemistry at PSU, said in a news release.

The consortium includes five Pacific Northwest art museums as partners, each of which will have access to the lab: Seattle Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, University of Washington Libraries, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon and Alaska State Museum.

The lab will work with conservation scientists and conservators to diagnose, analyze and treat valuable artwork under threat of deterioration. It will also study artists' methods and materials used in creating the artwork.

“The Pacific Northwest region has been historically underserved in conservation capacity relative to its impressive selection of museums. The growth in both expertise and sophistication around collections care in the region now necessitates access to scientific and analytical services that can adequately support more advanced conservation approaches,” Alison Gilchrest, Mellon Foundation program officer, said in the news release. “Via PSU, Dr. Clare has the capacity to catalyze collaborative, path-breaking research in the region’s museum sector.”

The consortium will also take on conservation projects focused initially on Asian and Native American art — a common feature in Pacific Northwest regional collections — before later expanding into modern art. The organization also intends to produce educational material for schools and other groups while holding an annual conference for conservators and scientists to share ideas and project results.