New heritage preservation institute
Yale establishes a conservation centre with $25m gift
By Emily Sharpe. Conservation, Issue 226, July-August 2011
Published online: 27 July 2011
NEW HAVEN. A former 212,000 sq. ft pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is to be the home of Yale’s newly established Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage which unites the Connecticut university’s resources, specifically its academic departments and the collections of its three museums, to “advance conservation science and its practice around the world”. The new institute, described by university spokesman Robin Hogen “as the first of its kind”, is being funded by a $25m gift from Lisbet Rausing, the heiress to the Swedish food processing and packaging company, Tetra Pak, and husband Peter Baldwin.
Developing innovative tools and techniques for the conservation and digitisation of artefacts and works of art will constitute two core activities of the centre, located on the university’s rapidly expanding West Campus, also home to the Peabody Museum of Natural History. The latter activity is in line with Yale’s “Open Access” policy announced in May. To date, the university has digitised 250,000 works from its collections, images of which are available online without any fees associated with their use.
Building upon Yale’s existing conservation activities, the centre will continue to explore areas of research such as the use of nanotechnology to slow the degradation of works of art and computer-based tools to care for ancient mosaics including a Byzantine example from Gerasa in northern Jordan which conservators are currently working to liberate from the concrete slabs and metal frames added in the 1930s to stabilise the work.
In a statement Baldwin said that Yale “shares our deep conviction that new technology will not only help us protect our most valuable cultural assets, but also expand access to those assets for people around the world”. Baldwin and Rausing sit on the board of Arcadia, a ten-year old fund founded by Rausing that has awarded around $200m in grants for initiatives to safeguard natural and cultural heritage including projects to digitise African rock art and conduct research at an archaeological site in Iceland’s Mosfell region.
As we went to press, the institute’s director had yet to be named, but Hogen stressed that Yale is “proceeding with the appointment at the earliest possible date”.
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