Conservation Stories

Chinese Paintings

After the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Scripps owns the second largest collection of Chinese paintings available to the public in southern California. Many of these works are fragile and need treatment. As the Scripps collections are a resource for teaching in the arts and Humanities, it is important to ensure artworks’ future use in classrooms as well as exhibitions.

One project, funded by the Getty, was to catalog and photograph the Chinese paintings for the College’s digital database. Scripps’ art history and art conservation students worked alongside several prominent Chinese art scholars, including Professor James Cahill of UC Berkeley, Professor Richard Barnhart of Yale, and Professor Peter Sturman of UC Santa Barbara. Together, they prioritized works for conservation by assessing authenticity and quality. Professor Bruce Coats (Ph.D. Harvard), who teaches courses in Asian art history at Scripps, also evaluated the works for their usefulness in teaching and exhibitions.

Mr. Sekichi and the stafff of Sekichi Bokusendo Conservation Studio, Kyoto, examine a Chinese painting before treatment.

Mr. Sekichi and the stafff of Sekichi Bokusendo Conservation Studio, Kyoto, examine a Chinese painting before treatment.

In 2015, Professor Coats organized Preserving China’s Past: Paintings of the Ming-Qing Dynasties, an exhibition at the Williamson Gallery, which  looked at traditional art conservation methods in Japan. This exhibition  featured images from various stages of the conservation process, comparing photo panels of each work in its former damaged state with the final treated painting.

This project was a wonderful opportunity for undergraduate Getty, Turk, and Wilson interns to gain hands-on experience in the field. They helped prepare the exhibition by researching the paintings and writing wall panels to explain the traditional process of conservation. In this way, our students help us illuminate for the public the art and science of conservation as practiced in Japan.

Conservation has been supported by conservation grants from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Click on the pictures below to read about the Gallery’s Conservation Stories!

Asian Textiles

The Scripps College collection of Asian textiles consists of more than 1,000 objects. Working directly with the textiles allows students to explore the material’s design and purpose. Students learn about the history of textiles, which informs modern understandings of the time and place from whence they came. Whether functional or decorative, each textile in the College’s teaching collection puts the fabric of Asia’s historic, cultural, economic, and social life within the students’ grasp.

Students study the condition of a number of textiles in the Scripps collection, including a Chinese skirt (on top) and several Chinese jackets and tunics.

Through Scripps College’s teaching collection, undergraduate students from various disciplines handle precious textiles—an opportunity rarely found at other schools. In one popular seminar taught by Professor Bruce Coats, “Arts of Late Imperial China,” class members collaborate and draw from the collection to prepare an exhibition. Scripps students may also create exhibitions for the Clark Humanities Museum independently. For example, in the spring of 2013, Johnson Research Award recipient Tara Contractor (SCR ’13) organized an exhibition entitled Pashmina: A Hundred Year Journey. The Gallery’s many student interns also work closely with the textile collection. Over the years, Getty, Turk, and Wilson interns have helped staff clean, organize, photograph, and electronically catalog a wide variety of objects, from elaborate Jifu imperial robes to the most delicate of silk slippers.

Ongoing conservation efforts are essential to preserving these culturally and aesthetically significant works. Many of the collection’s magnificent Chinese garments, dating from between 1550 and 1900, need professional cleaning and repair to return them to a condition acceptable for use in classes and exhibitions. In spring 2013, the Williamson Gallery received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to treat some of the highest-priority textiles in the collection—several of which are highlighted here.

Click on the pictures below to read about the Gallery’s Conservation Stories!

Reversible Opera Butterfly Robe       (19th c.)

Kesi Panel with Dragon (1590-1640) *Treatment Completed*

Phoenix Tapestry (1550-1625)



Chinese Paintings