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.
Within days of starting my internship, I was on a quest to learn about the history of the gate after its arrival at the estate. It would soon be clear that this story would not be a simple one, and that this panel had undergone many restoration interventions and had experienced a lot of damage. I quickly learned that multiple restoration applications to repair the mosaic were in many cases beginning to fail. With the guidance and help of conservator Kent Severson, we developed a plan to stabilize areas of instability and to return the mosaic back to its original beauty.
The treatment of the tile panel is currently underway, with one third of the mortar work being completed before my departure. My time at Shangri La has not only been focused on the treatment of the wall, but has also consisted of an in-depth historical investigation and material analysis that will act as a guide for future conservators. Thanks to archivist Dawn Sueoka for helping me sleuth through old documents, Polaroids, and film negatives!
Being in Hawai’i has not only provided a great research and learning opportunity, but has also allowed me to experience the local culture, beautiful surroundings, and, most importantly, the warmth and generosity of the Shangri La ‘ohana.
About the Guest Author:
Colette Khanaferov is a third-year master’s candidate studying conservation. She received her undergraduate degree in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is currently a conservation graduate student at the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. Her interests include Islamic art and architecture, archaeological metals, organics, and materials from the Near East.