Descriptions of CMC Research Areas

I. Conservation & Material Culture Science:

Building on all four program’s disciplinary research domains: materials, technology, environment and traditional ecological knowledge and the fundamentals of science and engineering, this cross-disciplinary research thrust aims to address critical questions of the past and sustainable preservation challenges through the fundamental understanding of the chemistry, microstructure and properties of material culture. Through the application of science and engineering to archaeology, ethnography and conservation, the focus is to understand both the physical nature of material culture (date, context, chemical composition and style) and the ways in which humans have interacted with them across time and space and to assess the environmental impact (weathering and diagenetic processes, defects, and products of alteration). More specifically, this research thrust focuses on the application of principles and methods from geochemistry, physics, life sciences and materials science and engineering to develop innovative methods and approaches to address global conservation challenges and/or understand human behavior and technological choices.

II. Preventive Conservation & Care of Collections:

“Conservation embodies minimizing change and maximizing longevity” (from Conservation Concerns: A Guide to Collectors and Curators). The research thrust in Preventive Conservation and Care of Collections is developed along the materials and environment research domains and focuses on actions (both preventive and passive) taken to inhibit, pacify or delay the deterioration of material culture. These activities include cost effective environmental (light, humidity, temperature) conditions and management; pest management; exhibition and insurance policies; condition assessments, monitoring, reporting, presentation and dissemination.

III. Cultural Property Forensics:

This research thrust based on the materials, technology and environment disciplinary domains, explores the challenges and technological difficulties pertaining to forensic science investigations in art and archaeology. It focuses on technological innovations and improvements of analytical methods and techniques to enhance detection and fingerprinting and the application of different scientific techniques to identify and determine production events and provenance of cultural heritage materials. Focused areas include the recovery of artifacts, criminal investigations associated with looted artifacts requiring material characterization/authentication, identification, provenance and repatriation of looted objects.

IV. Advanced Multidimensional Documentation:

Based primarily on the materials, technology and environment research domains, this thrust innovates in scientific technologies and approaches in understanding, visualizing, displaying, interpreting, accessing and disseminating information on material culture change through imaging (2 and 3D digital and chemical imaging), sensing, data capture, analysis and mining. This thrust focuses on temporal (time domain) and spatial (x,y,z) dimensions and includes traditional research areas and innovations in multiscale (from the macro to the nanoscale) multi- and hyperspectral applications of X-rays, UV, Vis, IR, THz, as well as computational modeling.

V. Biocultural Heritage Conservation:

Deeply rooted in the materials, environment and TEK research domain, this emerging field on biocultural heritage conservation focuses on material culture changes, mainly immovable cultural heritage such as rock-art and archaeological/cultural sites at a spatial (urban setting, tropical/temperate grasslands, savannas, lake systems, tundra and polar systems, and cold winter deserts) and temporal scale, planning and management. This research thrusts builds both on technical quantitative and quantitative competencies and public policy, ensuring the protection of cultural (and natural) property, through the development understanding, monitoring and reporting systems; providing emergency technical assistance for sites facing imminent threats; encourage participation of local population in the preservation of cultural (and natural) heritage; develop public awareness-building activities and encourage international collaborations.

VI. Emergency Planning and Managing Disaster Risks of World Cultural Heritage:

This research thrust explores recent conservation trends and develops new strategies in key areas to secure endangered movable and immovable material culture and plans appropriate preparatory procedures for the post-disaster recovery, caused by natural hazards and war-conflict. It develops qualitative procedures on how cultural property at risk is identified, assessed and evaluated in order to enhance cost effective crisis response strategies and planning while increasing efficiency in emergency documentation and recovery of movable and immovable heritage. One of the main goals is to provide joint programming between culture and humanitarian sectors (first responders) and building national capacities for emergency planning and managing disaster risks. This research field will further explore building capacity and collaborative initiatives with the ROTC training at UCLA and at national level introducing tactical training on emergency preparedness plan and recovery in areas of conflict.

VII. Conservation Philosophy & Ethics:

The Conservation Philosophy & Ethics research thrust builds on the materials and TEK domains and focuses on the dialogues between material culture (both archaeological and indigenous) and ethical and philosophical concepts of what, how and why material culture should be conserved and who should be involved in decision-making process. The main focus of this thrust analyzes the different conservation approaches/schools of thought as well as ethical and contextual aspects on the conservation of material culture based on cultural context, time of construction, function and value using examples of movable and immovable heritage.