The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the United Nations have declared 2011 the International Year of Chemistry. An entire year’s worth of programming across the globe will “celebrate the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind.” National chemistry societies, universities, and corporations are recognizing the Year of Chemistry by hosting a variety of events that highlight the role of chemistry in our everyday lives. The IMA, although regularly considered an arts-based institution, has recently added a state-of-the-art chemical research and analysis laboratory to its conservation department. In recognition of the new role of science at the IMA, I accepted an invitation from the Turkish Chemical Society to conduct a weeklong speaking tour of research universities in Istanbul, promoting the role of chemistry in the understanding and preservation of cultural patrimony.
While in Istanbul, I presented three hour long seminars on various aspects of conservation science, including research on artwork authentication, the use of lasers in the study and treatment of degraded artists’ pigments, and the theory and technology of near-infrared imaging of artwork. In addition to lecturing, I was also able to tour the myriad of Turkish cultural landmarks in Istanbul such as the Topkapi Palace, Galata Tower, Haiga Sofia, and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (photo below).
As a cultural crossroads for centuries, Istanbul is the home of many world treasures. I was fortunate to get several “behind the scenes” tours of some of Istanbul’s top academic and government laboratories dedicated to the preservation and study of these objects. Tours and consultations included the newly outfitted instrumental analysis labs at the Süleymaniye Library and the Directorate of Conservation Restoration Implementation and Supervision on Historic Heritage (KUDEB). I look forward to collaborating with my new colleagues in Turkey as they host the upcoming 2nd International Congress on Chemistry for Cultural Heritage.