Conserving Works of the Ming and Qing Dynasties



China Anonymous, “Two Star Deities of Happiness and Honor,” 16th – 17th c., paint on silk, Scripps College

Six valuable Chinese paintings in the Scripps College collection are currently undergoing extensive conservation in order to use them for teaching and display. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The damaged works are being given new life thanks to a $58,385 Museums for America grant. “These grants are funding the conservation of Chinese paintings so that students and the public can better enjoy them,” said Mary MacNaughton, director of the Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. A future exhibition of the works will include an examination of the traditional art of conserving Asian paintings.

Students examine centuries-old Chinese textiles from the Scripps collection with Prof. Bruce Coats.

Since 2007, the Williamson Gallery has conserved Chinese paintings, and many of these are on view on the Scripps College campus, in the Clark Humanities Museum. Students in Professor of Art History Bruce Coats’s course, “Arts of Late Imperial China,” research and write about these extraordinary works. Professor Coats, who has written numerous publications and curated several exhibitions on the history of Asian art, utilizes the collection as a resource for art history and humanities seminars at Scripps. “Seeing digital images and examining actual Chinese paintings are quite different experiences,” Coats explained. “To carefully observe how artists have used brush strokes on silk or paper to achieve visual effects helps students intimately understand the production and the contexts of these works. They then use this knowledge to create exhibitions about Chinese cultures. Teaching with ‘real objects’ is very important to art history and enlivens the classroom or museum experience.”

Mr. Tomokatsu Kawazu, a conservator specializing in Asian art, has been entrusted with the paintings selected for conservation. The works displayed here, Two Star Deities of Happiness and Honor and Lady Holding Peony, are among the pieces Mr. Kawazu is treating, thanks to IMLS grant MA-30-13-0444-13.

Leng-Mi, “Lady Holding Peony” (detail), 18th century, paint on paper, Scripps College

The Williamson Gallery houses more than 100 Chinese paintings, primarily from the 16th century Ming and 19th century Qing dynasties. The collection is the second largest of Chinese paintings in Los Angeles available for public viewing.

A detailed description of the work needed can be found by visiting the Conservation Stories section: Chinese Painting Conservation, Round Two.











About the IMLS Conservation Project Support Awards: The awards help museums identify conservation needs and priorities and perform activities to ensure the safekeeping of their collections. The grants are given through competitive peer review and require that at least a 100 percent match be made by the applicant. This year, the IMLS presented grants of nearly $30 million for 244 projects in a wide array of museums, including art museums, aquariums, science centers, and history museums. IMLS Director Susan Hildreth says, “The nation’s 17,500 museums are trusted spaces where people can follow their passions and connect with their communities in new ways, where treasured collections are used to create unique learning places.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.