National News

PSU program using cutting edge science to preserve artwork getting national recognition

Posted November 9, 2017 2:05 p.m. EST

— A Portland State University program that works to preserve valuable pieces of art is getting national recognition, in the form of a million dollar grant to work with museums around the Northwest.

In Teri Lasseter Clare's lab, she and a handful of graduate students develop plans to conserve and preserve artwork, using cutting-edge science.

Their investigations, using microscopes and complex treatments, tell them everything from how art should be handled, to how and where it should be stored.

"Sometimes it's because of condition issues. There's been a color change. There's chipping. There's flaking. Other times it's just we don't know much about the artist and what materials the artist used," said Lasseter Clare.

Conservation science started around the turn of the 19th century, when the industrial revolution started having an impact on air quality, and on public works of art.

"These beautiful outdoor sculptures that had a lustrous brown for their lifetime suddenly turned this blue-green color that we see with copper corrosion. So that alerted people to a problem," said Lasseter Clare.

Lasseter Clare's work recently earned her a million dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to set up a regional consortium for conservation science, which will give museums in the Northwest access to deeper scientific exploration of their collections of artwork.

Money from the grant will allow Lasseter Clare to take her scientific instruments on the road, and inspect artwork in the field, which she hopes will help to preserve art for future generations to appreciate.