(by Claire Scott, Biology Team)
The biology team’s past week was quite full. On Monday and Tuesday, the team extracted DNA from African and Asian elephant dung and blood, and also sent out previously amplified samples of DNA from dung to be sequenced. After weeks of practice and necessary production of baseline results, the team is ready to extract DNA from ivory. They began to soak ivory pieces in EDTA so that they will be decalcified and ready to work with in seven days.
On Wednesday, Stacy and Claire were lucky enough to be able to shadow Glenn Gates, a conservation scientist at the Walters Art Museum. Using x-ray florescence, they identified the elements contained in the pigments used in an Indian miniature painting. The painting is thought to have been made in the 1800s and, by examining what pigments were used, they hoped to determine whether the miniature was painted in the first or second half of the 19th century. Based on the pigments found within the miniature, which were available before the 19th century and used throughout, it was not possible to narrow down the years of creation.
All of the SCIART teams visited the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library on Thursday. Debbie Hess Norris, the Chair of the Conservation Department at the University of Delaware, shared some of her knowledge about photograph conservation with the students. She also detailed what is expected from students applying to the art conservation graduate school at Winterthur.
Throughout the course of the day, the students toured the chemistry laboratories as well as the laboratories for the conservation of paintings, objects, textiles, papers, books and furniture at Winterthur. Graduate students talked about their individual projects, one of the requirements of the graduate program at Winterthur. Each laboratory shared immensely interesting details specific to the distinct category of art with which they worked. Once the Director of Conservation, Joy Gardner, finished guiding the SCIART students through the Winterthur graduate school, the students explored an exhibit on forgeries. The stories of many forgeries sounded more like a dramatic film than reality.
On Friday the biology group met with the rest of SCIART and presented on the progress they have made in their research.