Learning the Art of Conservation

By definition, the name Shangri La evokes an enchanted and remote utopia. One visit to Doris Duke’s home takes you on a journey of the senses where you are transported around the world through an exquisite assemblage of art and artifacts. The architectural design alone against the backdrop of the natural beauty of Hawaii is breathtaking and awe-inspiring! Within these walls, a vast collection of precious items awaits its day to bask in the glow of a conservator’s lamp. This is where I come in as a graduate, pre-program intern interested in art conservation. Under the guidance of Conservator, Kent Severson, I was introduced to a small bowl that had seen better days.

48.318 Before Treatment

The previously restored bowl had fallen apart in storage. Large fragments, including sections of the rim, had detached and yellow resin covered half the surface. In this condition it could not be viewed by the public. The first thing to determine was exactly what had been holding it together and what was used during its previous restoration. The resin, the adhesive and the fill material had to be tested for solubility. Through these tests, the bowl in essence spoke to what it had been through in recent history, giving vital information. Once I determined the materials and techniques used, I was able to formulate a plan to treat it.

An assessment of the previously repaired joints’ stability was made to decide if any of the bowl needed to be disassembled and reassembled for aesthetic purposes. I photographed the item for documentation purposes and the fun began! I had to carefully remove the resin, the previous restoration paint, the adhesives and the fill. This series of steps revealed the substrate I had to work with. I consolidated the edges of the fragments using a stable acrylic-based adhesive. Then the reassembly began, piece by piece, using a stable acrylic-based adhesive. Small losses were filled with an acrylic-based fill material.

48.318 During Treatment

This is the point where you start to see the piece come to life again—it is a magical moment when the pieces reunite. Finally, acrylic emulsion paints are applied to both the interior and exterior to achieve a harmonious transition between surfaces.

48.318 After Treatment
48.318 After Treatment
48.318 After Treatment

During the process it was easy to forget just far along the bowl had come. Kent would remind me to take a look at the before pictures! I have to say, the time spent with the bowl became a labor of love; it will forever hold a special place in my heart. I am truly grateful to the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art for the opportunity and the introduction to the art of conservation through this amazing piece from the collection.

About the guest author:

Elizabeth Asal

Elizabeth Asal received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Hawaii Mānoa in 2015. Prior to her studies she worked at Gallery Iolani in Kaneohe, Hawaii. She is a ceramicist and comes from a family of artists.

Shangri La, Islam, and the Ocean: An Interconnected World

The Playhouse at Shangri La. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)
The Playhouse at Shangri La. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

As I sit, with coffee in hand, enjoying the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from Shangri La, I recognize that Doris Duke’s choice of venue for a house filled with Islamic art was singularly appropriate.  After all, Arabs and Persians were the great seafarers of the eighth to fifteenth centuries. Their merchants traveled to Mogadishu in modern Somalia on the east coast of Africa to Calicut in India to the port of Quanzhou on China’s southeast coast. They linked Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.  Ships laden with cargoes of gold, spices, medicines, and numerous other products traversed the Indian Ocean and then on to the South China Sea.

The influence of these traders went beyond the simple exchange of goods. They introduced Islam to many regions in Asia and simultaneously exposed the Arab and Persian worlds to Chinese decorative objects. The 1998 discovery of the Belitung shipwreck, off the coast of Indonesia, of a ninth-century Arab dhow attests to the scale of the trade and to the splendid works of art that played a role in such commerce. Excavators found sixty thousand unique and high-quality Chinese ceramics and gold objects, many of which are now housed in a museum in Singapore. The Chinese ceramics that actually reached the Arab and Persian worlds would naturally have a significant influence on Islamic art.

The beauty of Shangri La and its idyllic location prompt many such reflections about art as well as about “globalization,” much before that term gained currency in the twentieth century. A spectacular museum of Islamic art in Hawai’i offers a perfect symbol of globalization.

2014.6_20140614_015About the Guest Author:

Morris Rossabi is Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York and Columbia University, and has taught and conducted research on Chinese, Inner Asian and Islamic culture. Author and editor of more than twenty books, including Khubilai Khan and A History of China, he has participated in exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He served as Chair of the Arts and Culture Board of the Soros Foundation also been granted fellowships and residencies from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, the Smith Richardson Foundation among other organizations. In 2015-2016 he lectured at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Rijksmuseum, Salzburg University and the University of Colorado.  He has been an advisor at Shangri La periodically since 2002 and has presented lectures here in 2012 and 2014.



“How is it up there in the heavens?”

A docent cranes her neck to ask me, and I reply, “Hot and sweaty.” For the past four weeks I have been working up on scaffolding in the foyer of Shangri La. This is the first room that guests see, and it can be an overwhelming surprise of spaces and patterns. I am not sure how long it takes visitors to look up, but above, there is a whole other beauty: a carved, painted, and gilded wooden ceiling.


Continue reading “How is it up there in the heavens?”

A Legacy of Restoration: Schuenemann’s Gate

As the end of my eight-week summer internship is rapidly approaching, I find myself surprised and pleased about the journey an 18th -century mosaic from Isfahan, Iran, has taken me. As a coming third-year graduate scholar at the UCLA/Getty conservation program studying conservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials, I have spent nearly two months researching, documenting, analyzing, and ultimately treating the “Schuenemann’s gate,” a mosaic tile panel located on the dining room lanai at Shangri La, Doris Duke’s historic home.

Colette Khanaferov removing old retouching on 18th-century tile work with organic solvents. (Photo: Gilbert Martinez, 2015.)
Colette Khanaferov removing old retouching on 18th-century tile work with organic solvents.                                    (Photo: Gilbert Martinez, 2015.)

Continue reading A Legacy of Restoration: Schuenemann’s Gate

A Few of Our Favorite Things: A Conversation on Khatamkari

The following is a guest post by Shangri La guides Susan Berg and Miki Yamashiro.

Susan Berg: Hey Miki, Shangri La guides were asked to do a blog on one of their favorite pieces at Shangri La. Want to try?

Miki Yamashiro: Sue Berg, what are you getting me into now? But sure, there are so many things I love about Shangri La—how do we pick just one?

Sue: What in the collection really draws your attention?

The living room at Shangri La, with khatamkari doors. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)
The living room at Shangri La, with khatamkari doors. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

Continue reading A Few of Our Favorite Things: A Conversation on Khatamkari

EWC Leadership Fellows Turn to Doris Duke’s Shangri La

At the Honolulu based East-West Center, an education and research institution for public diplomacy, cooperative study, and leadership development faculty are tasked with training ambitious, emerging international leaders to create a peaceful, prosperous, and just Asia Pacific community. To ensure relevance, trainings often involve a project based, service learning experience with a partnering community organization or business based in Hawaii.

In the past, partners supporting EWC experiential learning opportunities range from the Hawaii Food Bank to the US Department of State. Recently however, faculty of the EWC Leadership Certificate Program sought a case study that would help their fellows clarify and question how values and priorities can inform leader’s legacies while enhancing their cultural literacy.

The 2014 EWC Leadership Certificate Program cohort is comprised of ten fellows from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, and the Philippines. All are supported by the Asian Development Bank – Japan Scholarship Program (ADB-JSP) for graduate study at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Faculty determined that the Doris Duke story embodied in Shangri La, Duke’s former residence overlooking Diamond Head, provided the ideal case study. So they turned to the staff of Shangri La for help.

Seeking to utilize Shangri La as a laboratory, EWC faculty reached out to the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) who agreed to collaborate. They then tasked their Leadership Certificate Program cohort with a seemingly simple leadership challenge: fulfill Doris Duke’s legacy. However, seeking to simulate the high-pressure, short time frame conditions leaders find themselves in today, faculty challenged the cohort to complete the task in four weeks while still attending to their full-time graduate study at UH Manoa.

Fellows began by reflecting upon the leadership styles and approaches of Duke and DDFIA’s leaders as well as the organization’s position of leadership in the community. Fellows then attempted to develop expertise in Islamic art & culture through visits and discussions at Shangri La and the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Through in depth conversations with Carol Khewhok, Program Manager at Shangri La, fellows realized the need to build on successful past projects of DDFIA and align their ideas with the following more specific leadership challenges:

  • What educational events can DDFIA use to break through prejudices and stereotypes against Islam?
  • What types of new programming can DDFIA develop that reach a diverse public while adhering to the conditional use permit for Shangri La?
  • How can DDFIA address the severe conservation needs faced by the collection given the property’s location and the open-air nature of the museum?

At the end of the four week module, EWC Leadership Certificate Fellows pitched their responses to the Shangri La Executive Director Deborah Pope and Program Manager Carol Khewhok in what faculty term a “Reality Test.” Also joining were the EWC Director of External Affairs Karen Knudsen, EWC Education Director Terance Bigalke, EWC Dean of Education Mary Hammond, EWC Director of Leadership Programs Scott Macleod, and fellows from other EWC leadership programs.

A few of the EWC Leadership Certificate Fellows innovative proposals included:

  • A DDFIA sponsored certificate program at the University of Hawaii facilitated by the East-West Center to increase understanding and break through prejudices and stereotypes against Islam
  • A walk through virtual reality tour of Shangri La hosted at the DDFIA partner Honolulu Museum of Art to increase exposure without violating the limitations set by the conditional use permit
  • A natural disaster resilience plan for severe tsunamis, fires, or hurricanes that could threaten the structural integrity of the facilities housing the collection

Fellows diversity enabled them to go beyond applying knowledge gained from past professional experience in their home countries. The interdisciplinary background of the cohort, which includes Urban Planning, Law, Public Policy, and Economics, enabled them to offer unique perspectives and insights from their different fields and thus a broader range of EWC Group, Oct. 31innovative ideas.

Shangri La leaders provided helpful and meaningful feedback for the EWC Fellows work. “I really enjoyed the presentations and was impressed by the participants” commented Ms. Pope. “I was frankly excited to see Shangri La used in this very active, engaged way.”

About the Guest Author: Lance Boyd is an international leadership educator at the East-West Center. Lance’s experience in Asia includes two Fulbright Fellowships in Japan and Singapore, service as a USAID environmental education consultant for ASEAN, and an Earthwatch funded researcher on insectivorous bats in peninsular Malaysia. In Europe, Lance studied as an undergraduate in Austria, completed a MA at the International School for Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, and completed a Goethe Institute funded study of the environmental movement in Germany. While working for the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science he also earned a MA in Education Foundations.

An interview with Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar in the dining room at Shangri La.
Amir ElSaffar in the dining room at Shangri La.

Doris Duke was a woman of many interests and pursuits, which ranged across cultures and included exploring art, music, and architecture. Shangri La offers events and programs that reflect the eclectic nature of Doris Duke’s taste by providing live musical and dance performances, lectures, presentations, art installations, and more, all in a very inviting and comfortable atmosphere. The artists and guests that visit Shangri La are so diverse in their fields and backgrounds that I thought it would be a good idea to get to know them a little bit better. I interviewed our most recent artist in residence, Amir ElSaffar, an award-winning trumpeter/composer.

Amir embodies the very distinctive nature of Shangri La’s performances. He is recognized for incorporating traditional Iraqi Maqam with jazz and other contemporary music—an unlikely combination. He has created his own artistic style by exploring this new musical territory. A recent recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award, he is also director of a few ensembles at Columbia University, curator of Alwan for the Arts, an Arab cultural center in New York, and is working on new commissions and collaborations. As of next month, Amir will be recording a new piece from his 2013 album, Two Rivers, that will be released in the summer of next year. Below is our interview:

Maida Besic: I read that the first instrument you learned to play was the ‘ukulele, is that right?

Amir ElSaffar: Yes, the first instrument I played was ‘ukulele, a local Hawaiian instrument. My mother played ‘ukulele and flute. We had this baritone ‘uke in the house that was my grandmother’s; I learned to play on that. Eventually I went to play guitar. I played folk music, Beatles songs, and then I moved to the electric guitar and was playing rock music. This was all between the ages of nine and thirteen. That was my earliest musical education.

Your father emigrated from Iraq, but Iraqi music wasn’t a large part of your upbringing. How come?

When my dad left Iraq…in 1953, I think he was trying to leave a lot behind him and move on to living in the West and being part of society in the States…. He didn’t seem to put much effort into maintaining the connection with his Iraqi roots. So speaking the Arabic language, [Iraqi] music, and Islam were not much a part of our upbringing. He didn’t try to make an active attempt to instill that in us, but there were Iraqi families in the neighborhood that we used to have dinners with and maintain some kind of connection with.

Iraqi music is a large part of your music now. You traveled to Iraq and Europe—trips spanning five years—to learn how to play the Maqam from traditional Iraqi musicians. What inspired that trip?

It was a gradual process, wanting to connect to the music of my ancestry, music of the Arab world…. I think when I was around twenty years old or so, [my sister] played a recording of an Egyptian trumpet player. I had to listen to it three or four times before I even recognized the instrument because he was playing it in such a different way and such an authentic way [with regard] to the tradition that it didn’t even sound like a trumpet at all. I never imagined that the trumpet could work in this music. So that was when I got my first inkling to start studying, and at the time I was getting a degree in classical trumpet and studying jazz. But after graduating college I decided to start understanding more of this tradition. I went to Egypt, met with this trumpet player a couple of times—didn’t really get a lesson but just heard him play up close, and got to talk to him a little bit…. When I moved to New York, that’s when I decided to study the music in a more serious and disciplined way, as a way of having something to offer.

What is the Maqam tradition?

Maqam is a general term that describes the modal system and melodic system of the Islamic world. In Iraq, Maqam has a more specific meaning: it is a composition, and has a beginning, middle, and end. It’s very, very strict in a way, but once you learn all of the rules, you can have all kinds of freedom and variation. So when you say “Maqam,” it has a much more general meaning, and “Maqam Iraqi” is a particular genre.

And what was it about the Maqam tradition specifically that drew you to the music?

I started studying different traditions—Egyptian, Tunisian, Lebanese, Syrian—but as soon as I heard the Iraqi Maqam I was like, what is this? I had to understand. I went to Baghdad, [where] I had a couple of really good teachers. I had a good entryway. It’s very composed but improvised at the same time. There is a very blurred line between composition and improvisation that was really interesting to me. The emotional content of it was so powerful, so strong, and really spoke to me on a lot of levels. Every time, I would learn a little bit. I wanted to understand more and more, so it blossomed in that way.

You also learned the Arabic language as a result of your trips. Did learning the language help you connect with the music on a deeper level? Is that something you purposely wanted to do?

The music is primarily vocal. It really depends so much on the poetry. The Arab culture is so much enamored with poetry and the spoken word—even the Quran. The power of the Quran is just the words themselves, the sound of the word, the way the grammar is used, which is why the translations of the Quran are never really successful in translating the deeper meaning, other than just the literal sense. So definitely that was an important element, and I don’t think I could have learned Maqam without having learned the language as well. Once I started to understand the poetry, the music came to life in this other way.

What are some of the common themes in the Arabic music/poetry of Maqam?

They are mostly love songs or love poetry. There are two genres in poetry. One is the qasida, which is the classical form throughout the Arab world; the other is the called zuheiri, and it’s a seven-line form that is in dialect. The qasida is universal in the Arab-speaking world. The main subjects that find themselves in the Maqam are those that deal with love and longing and sometimes a sense of loss, but always striving for or trying to reach the beloved. It can have this very literal reading or interpretation, or there’s always this divine, Sufi [element]—a much larger longing—so that often the poems can read in two different ways.

Why did you name your most recent album Alchemy?

Alchemy had to do with introducing the microtones, these quarter tones that don’t exist in western classical music. It was taking the quarter tones and putting them into the harmonic system of western music because all of the chords of western music are based on using the twelve notes. So I was introducing these other microtones into elements of western music, and a lot of other possibilities started to open up—new chords and new harmonies. That’s where the idea started. It was less about bridging Maqam and jazz, and more about something very musical, in that sense. It also connects to my name, which means coppersmith. Copper is an alloy:, it’s always a combination of two or three different metals…so that was something else I had been thinking about as well.

What are you currently working on?

I have a new piece that I composed for Two Rivers in 2013. It was a Newport Jazz Festival commission also funded by the Doris Duke Foundation that I’m going to be recording next month for summer release and [going on tour to support]. The next big composition is called Rivers of Sound. That’s with a large ensemble, a seventeen-piece group that’s going to perform at Lincoln Center Atrium in New York, and we have some future gigs in 2015 and 2016 already planned. I’m going to spend the first three months of the year writing for that project. It’s the largest-scale work I have composed until now.

What has your experience at Shangri La been like?

It’s been incredible—the combination of environment, being in Hawai‘i, this incredible ocean view and the sun in the morning…being in a warm place in November, that goes without saying. But of course this home that Doris Duke has so tastefully and remarkably put together and getting to explore the different rooms has been incredibly inspiring. Especially when going to places like Syria and Baghdad is not possible. It’s not the same, but practicing in the Syrian and Damascus rooms has been really inspirational…. Maybe, sometime in the 1800s, there was a group playing music in this room. What was that music like? Even if it’s just my imagination, it gives me a lot of ideas and inspiration. It’s been really wonderful, and I don’t know in what sense exactly…there’s a feeling of Doris Duke’s presence. And it could be just what she left behind and how she intended for her legacy to continue, but I really have a deep sense of gratitude to her and to everybody here, the whole staff and interns. Everyone has been so lovely and wonderful.

I’m not sure if Doris Duke could have envisioned all that Shangri La has become, but I find that Shangri La, as a space for the community, accomplishes something similar to what Amir has done with his music. What on the surface appears to be odd and out of place—an estate dedicated to an Islamic art collection in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—is somehow very much at home in the Islands. Here at Shangri La, the faraway and foreign become familiar, offering visitors the opportunity to see life from a different perspective through music, art, and history. I feel a similar sense of gratitude to Doris Duke and what she has managed to create during her life, which continues to enrich the lives of so many others, from interns to artists and guests that visit from all walks of life and from all parts of the world. Showcasing how different elements can be combined, here is a video of Amir’s music.



We’d love to hear what you think. Please share any thoughts or comments below.

_MG_4252 - Copy (2)About the Guest Author: Maida Besic was an intern in Shangri La’s Programs Department during the fall 2014 semester. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology with minor in Islamic studies, and worked with the El-Hibri Charitable Foundation in supporting Unity Productions Foundation’s efforts in showcasing Islamic culture. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Hawai’i, majoring in higher education administration with a focus on international education. While at Shangri La, Maida assisted the Programs Department with evaluating programs and the visitor experience, and with conceptualizing, planning, and launching public programs.

A Few of Our Favorite Things: A Jewel in Its Own Right

The following is a guest post by Shangri La guide Susan Killeen.

While showing guests through the Syrian Room at Shangri La, one of my joys is lighting up the low tea table (65.9) under the nineteenth-century Moroccan embroidered and appliqued textile in the smaller room. It’s as if the table waits patiently in the dimly lit space to perform for visitors when the light shines, and it never fails to elicit a chorus of oooos.

Table (khwan) (65.9). Iran, late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)
Table (khwan) (65.9). Iran, late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

The table, or khwan, is a beauty from late nineteenth–early twentieth-century Iran, probably the Qajar period. When created, it very likely did not have the same legs, and may have had short ones to elevate it just slightly. Rather than a table, this ornate piece was most likely an elaborate tray or “trencher” as it might be called. One might imagine that it once carried an array of sweet and savory dishes to be shared with guests.

Detail of table (65.9). Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)
Detail of table (65.9). Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

An excellent example of the artistic genius found in Islamic art, the table asserts the details of geometry, calligraphy, floral, and figurative imagery—a visual delight. The surface is a painted, gilded, and lacquered wood graced with scenes of princely life. Exquisitely featured medallions or cartouches depict several figures in a forest landscape with a variety of birds and wild animals. A number of leisurely figures interact while two youths demonstrate their prowess on horseback. The overall dimensions of the piece are 11 3/8 x 32 5/8 x 62 inches.

A narrow, floral border frames the central panel. Inscriptions of Persian poetry surround the edges of the table, beginning in the upper right hand corner and continuing around to the left. True to the artistic culture and custom of the period, the poetry (translated by former scholar-in-residence Wheeler Thackston) praises the table for its beauty and service:

habbaza khwane ki naqshash bas khwash u zebasti
O what a marvelous table, the design of which is so pleasing! How beautiful you are!

hamchu chihr-i dilbaran janbakhsh u ruhafzasti
Like the countenances of charmers, you are life-giving and spirit-increasing.

rashk-i naqsh-i Azar u Mani ki naqshash chun nigar
A design so beautiful it would make Azer and Mani jealous.

dilsitan u naghz u khwash u zebasti
Ravishing, comely, beautiful, good, and charming you are.

inchunin alhaq qarin-i khanda khwan u naqsh band
Thus truly a table and design coupled with laughter.

diljo-i bazm-i shahanshah-i jahan-arasti
You are a comfort at the banquet of a world-adorning king of kings.

For me, the fact that an otherwise utilitarian object would be so charmingly embellished speaks to the fact that the arts have the power to lift us up and enrich the function and beauty of the everyday items we use. The artisans of Islamic culture certainly appreciated this concept as a way of life.

susanAbout the Guest Author: Susan Killeen is a writer and producer, having worked in television and on educational documentaries. She served as executive director of the Hawaii Consortium for the Arts and as President of the Honolulu Pen Women. She has taught creative writing and has worked as an interpretive guide at Shangri La since 2011.

Conservation in Paradise

Small Syrian Room. © 2014, Linny Morris, courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
Small Syrian Room. © 2014, Linny Morris, courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

As we finish up our last week here at Shangri La, we can’t help but to reflect on the amazing experiences we have had over the past eight weeks. Spending an entire summer surrounded by exquisite Islamic art and architecture on the southern coast of Oahu proved to be quite an experience. As part of our ongoing art conservation training at Buffalo State University and Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and in conjunction with the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, we were able to participate in a project to help preserve another part of Doris Duke’s historic home: the Syrian Room ceiling. The project involved thoroughly documenting the ceiling’s condition as well as the inch-by-inch consolidation of loose and flaking paint and decoration. Much of the degradation observed on the ceiling is likely a result of its close proximity to the salty waters of the Pacific.

Although Shangri La’s oceanside locale is visually stunning, the physical and chemical effects from salt-laden aerosols incurred by the art and architecture on site are not as breathtaking. Salt-filled air from the Pacific Ocean passes through the open corridors of the home: corroding metals, penetrating painted surfaces, and otherwise accelerating the degradation processes of a myriad of materials. The preservation of the site as a whole requires constant upkeep by conservation, curatorial, and maintenance personnel.

Nick Pedemonti consolidating flaking paint on the ceiling of the small Syrian Room. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Nicole Peters, 2014.)
Nick Pedemonti consolidating flaking paint on the ceiling of the small Syrian Room. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i. (Photo: Nicole Peters, 2014.)

Given these aggressive environmental conditions (salt, water, heat- oh my!) and the current state of the ceiling, the required treatment was addressed using an “archaeological site approach.” Essentially, this site needs help, and it will not spend its life in a dim-lit, temperature and RH-controlled environment, so a more intense intervention is required. With syringes and paintbrushes in hand, we injected and wicked adhesive into every crevice and cupped paint flake necessary to prevent further flaking and cracking to ensure the stability of the surface as a whole. The project took us approximately one month to complete.

Nicole Peters applying fill material around the newly attached forearm of a late 19th/early 20th century Krishna sculpture from Rajasthan, India (#41.140). (Photo: Nick Pedemonti, 2014.)
Nicole Peters applying fill material around the newly attached forearm of a late 19th/early 20th century Krishna sculpture from Rajasthan, India (#41.140). (Photo: Nick Pedemonti, 2014.)

Shangri La conservator Kent Severson, ensured us that for the remaining four weeks of our internship, there was no shortage of objects to work on. The greatly anticipated opening of the Mughal Suite initiated our first project: the treatment of two Krishna sculptures. Both sculptures required the removal of corroded iron dowels and the reattachment of appendages with stainless steel dowels and polyester resin. Collectively, this summer we have been given the chance to work on sculptures and architectural elements made from schist, marble, stone, ivory, gold, and mother of pearl. The internship here at Shangri La provided a great opportunity to work with a truly unique collection made from vastly different materials and techniques.

We have learned a great deal this summer about Shangri La, Doris Duke, and the conservation of the collection, and we have also learned a great deal about Hawaii and Hawaiian culture and hospitality. It is with a heavy heart we bid adieu to our Shangri La ohana, we will miss you dearly!


Nick and Nicole

Guest Post: A Career of Giving: The Surprising Legacy of Doris Duke

We’re happy to present this guest blog post by Kristen Costa, Assistant Curator at the Newport Restoration Foundation.  

Greetings from one of Doris Duke’s other houses!

Rough Point was Doris Duke’s Newport, Rhode Island, home; at the time of her death in 1993, she left the house to the Newport Restoration Foundation, which she founded in 1968 to restore eighteenth-century properties in the city. Her generosity and extraordinary vision in saving the physical structures of colonial history in Newport had an impact on the city in a way that is still evident today.

While her work in the city is easily seen and appreciated, we here at the NRF wanted to learn more about Duke as a philanthropist. We know so much about the causes she was passionate about, the organizations she founded and the great work of the foundation in her name, but we did not realize the depth, diversity and wide reach of her charitable giving throughout her life. In order to honor and explore this aspect of her life, we decided to focus our yearly exhibit at Rough Point on the topic. “A Career of Giving: The Surprising Legacy of Doris Duke” explores how Duke, a renaissance woman with such diverse interests and abilities, turned her substantial wealth into a philanthropic empire that was her life’s work.

A Career of Giving: The Surprising Legacy of Doris Duke. Photo courtesy of Newport Restoration Foundation.
A Career of Giving: The Surprising Legacy of Doris Duke. Photo courtesy of Newport Restoration Foundation.

It is estimated that during her lifetime, Duke donated over $400 million to charitable causes, much of it anonymously. Our exhibit focuses not only on the timeline of her giving, but highlights the Duke family’s tradition of philanthropy, beginning with her grandfather, Washington Duke, and continuing through her father, James B. Duke. We look at some of the causes that she gave frequently to: the arts, women & child welfare, medical research, and the environment. In doing research for the exhibit, we uncovered so many interesting stories of Duke’s philanthropy, including providing funds for individuals to attend music school; giving money to the British government in the early days of World War II to help their war effort; funding Russian Studies academic programs at numerous United States universities; contributing money to the United States Olympic Committee, and so much more.

Dress made for Doris Duke by the Rosebud Sioux. Photo courtesy of the Newport Restoration Foundation.
Dress made for Doris Duke by the Rosebud Sioux. Photo courtesy of the Newport Restoration Foundation.

Perhaps one of her least known philanthropic endeavors was her work with the American Indian population, including funding the American Indian Oral History Project. From 1966 to the 1980s, Duke made donations to universities in the United States for the collection of oral histories of American Indian tribe members. They included the universities of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah, and the University of California at Los Angeles.  More than 5,000 interviews were recorded capturing important spoken histories of American Indian life and culture, including the heroic work of the Navajo Code Talkers who served in the United States military during World War II. In addition, Duke made donations of Jersey cattle to the people of the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota. As a thank you, the tribe honored Duke at a naming ceremony in 1960 with the name “Wa-cantki-ye-win,” which translates to “Princess Charity.” We are lucky enough to have the dress the Sioux made for Duke for the ceremony, as well as a number of custom-made thank-you belts, moccasins and accessories on display as part of the exhibit.

“A Career of Giving: The Surprising Legacy of Doris Duke” is open at Rough Point for the 2013 season, from April to November 9 and is part of the regular house tour. More information is available at our website.