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acers spotlight ACerS launches new Arts, Archaeology, and Conservation Science Division What do cutting edge materials research and the investigation of ancient ceramic pots have in common? More than what you might think, and the connections are the basis of a “new” division of The American Ceramic Society. For example, Marc Walton, a new ACerS member and a conservation scientist at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, recently collaborated with staff from the Aerospace Corporation and the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University to investigate the ancient technology used to create a pottery vessel decorated with red and black figures produced in ancient Greece that dates from the 6th to the 4th centuries B.C. Walton and the other collaborators employed an arsenal of advanced X-ray spectrographic techniques to gain a deeper knowledge of iron-spinel chemistry in the vessel and insights into the how and when it was produced—and possibly who produced it. The type of work in which Walton is involved is the basis for the revitalization and renaming of ACerS’s former Arts Division. The retitled group— now called the Arts, Archaeology, and Conservation Science Division (AACS)—was approved by the Society’s Board of Directors in January, which also approved an acting set of officers. Katherine Faber, Walter P. Murphy professor in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and AACS’s new trustee, explains that the new division has to do with the numerous intersection points between art and materials science. “First of all, artists’ materials are of interest to materials scientists and ceramic scientists,” says Faber. “These can range all the way from pottery to paints that, as they cure, become brittle and behave like ceramic materials. So, we have an opportunity to use tools that we use for highly technical materials to also study artists’ materials. Besides spectroscopy, we can use scanning and transmission electron microscopies, which are important, because we have examples of artists who used nanomaterials back in the 18th century. Materials experts can now help to find out about the constituents of objects like those, given the nanoprobes we have today.” Faber emphasizes that the division would be concerned with artists’ materials and would use the techniques materials researchers are familiar with to think about processing methods or the techniques used to fabricate objects of cultural heritage. She says, “Someone with expertise in phase equilibria could look at an object thousands of years old and determine which phases are present, and then determine that it would take a specific temperature in order to produce those phases. This would help determine what kind of furnace or kiln would be needed to produce a temperature that high.” Faber credits another ACerS member, Lynnette Madsen, for being an effective champion of the new division. Madsen directs the National Science Foundation’s ceramics research program, and Faber recounts how Madsen noticed a few years ago that the then- Arts Division had a very small following. “She was perplexed by that, and also intrigued. Intrigued enough to join the division on the spot and think about how it could be reconfigured, because she—and she is not alone in her thinking—sees that the field of art is really a wonderful way to teach people about science,” says Faber. Workshop seeds new division About the same time, NSF, in conjunction with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, sponsored a workshop that focused on the intersection between art and science, especially in regard to materials science and chemistry. An outgrowth of that workshop was funding for the NSF Chemistry and Materials Research Cultural Heritage Science program. Faber says the support X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) maps generated of Greek pottery vessel materials: (a) optical image showing black gloss (right) and coral red (left); (b) distribution of Fe2+ species (measuring iron present in an oxidation state); and (c) distribution of Fe3+ species (measuring specific minerals present). of the Mellon Foundation in recent years, along with the new NSF investments, has helped fuel a growing interest in the United States toward issues of conservation science. “Over the last three years, NSF has funded about $9 million in research, and one requirement for that funding is that the work be collaborative between universities and museums. We are now seeing a number of these partnerships develop across the country, and I think that it is significant that ACerS has the opportunity to bring many of the participants into the Society and provide a forum for them to describe their research,” she says. Faber says that it is important to note that these art and archaeology projects are not new to ACerS or its members. “In fact, one of our illustrious members, now deceased—David Kingery—was very involved in looking at the history of archaeological materials. Kingery is known as the ‘father of modern ceramics.’ However, in the latter part of his career, Kingery turned his attention to archaeological materials and conducted symposia on ‘Ceramics and Civilization’ at ACerS meetings, 12 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 92, No. 2 (Credit: Marc Walton; NSF.)


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