Laboratory

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has constructed an approximately 3,000 square foot state-of-the-art analytical and research laboratory for the study of artists’ materials. This facility is partially funded by a generous $2.6M grant from the Lilly Endowment.

Staff

Gregory Dale Smith, PhD, Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist

Dr. Smith previously served as the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Conservation Science at Buffalo State College, one of only three graduate programs for comprehensive art conservation training in the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in physical/analytical chemistry from Duke University and has completed postdoctoral research at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, and at University College London.

Smith’s research interests include studying condition issues affecting modern polymers used in art, pigment degradation processes, preservation environments, and the development and testing of innovative conservation treatments. Smith’s academic and professional career is distinguished consistently with honors and awards, including a Marshall Sherfield Postdoctoral Scholarship to study in Britain, National Science Foundation Research Fellowships, and a Barry M. Goldwater Science Scholarship. He also has performed archaeological fieldwork in Galilee, Israel, serving as field chemist and supervisor on two excavations.

Smith has authored numerous articles for journals in the fields of chemistry and conservation. He is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), associate editor for the AIC’s professional journal, a member of the AIC Education and Training Committee, and a former Chair of the AIC Research & Technical Studies Specialty Group.

Jeff Fieberg, PhD, Sabbatical Leave Research Fellow in Technical Art History, 2011-2012

Dr. Fieberg is on sabbatical leave from his position as Associate Professor of Chemistry at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He holds a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Texas, where he studied surface photochemistry. Fieberg is an award winning teacher-scholar who was voted the state’s most ‘dramatic professor’ by Kentucky Monthly for his enthusiastic lectures and engaging class demonstrations.

At Centre, he teaches courses that explore the interfaces of science, art history and studio art. His students have made field trips to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and many of the museums and conservation science laboratories in the Washington D.C. area as part of his “Chemistry of Art” courses. Jeff’s courses have also taken him overseas where he was able to blend the Arts and Sciences as part of Centre’s semester-long study abroad program in London, England. He will teach a 3-week travel course, “Molecular Modernism: Manet to Matisse” in France (Paris and Provence) in 2013. Fieberg has participated in and helped facilitate some of the “Chemistry and Art” workshops funded by the National Science Foundation.

While on sabbatical at the IMA, Dr. Fieberg is performing technical analyses of paintings from the European modern collection, using x-ray fluorescence, Raman microspectroscopy, and infrared microspectroscopy. These important art historical projects will be transformed into curricular materials for his courses while helping the IMA lab staff to better interpret their important collection of modern European paintings.

Victor Chen, PhD, Full-time Lab Volunteer

Dr. Chen joined the IMA Conservation Science Lab in 2011 as a full time volunteer. Originally a native of Hong Kong, Victor obtained his terminal degree in biochemistry from Iowa State University specializing in protein chemistry and enzymology. He is a retiree from Eli Lilly and Company, after having worked there as a research scientist in drug discovery for 25 years. Victor is interested in learning about visual art through studying the science behind the artwork. In the lab, Victor will be helping to put in place methods for extracting colorants from artwork and analysis of organic pigment components in the extract by liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Outside of chemistry, Victor is interested in choral singing and recreational running.

Jie Liu, PhD, Former Postdoctoral IMA Scholar, 2010-2011

Dr. Liu recieved her PhD degree in chemistry from Purdue University, with a dissertation titled Nucleation, Growth, and Self-assembly of Cobalt Nanoparticles. She joined the IMA Conservation Science Lab in September, 2010 as Postdoctoral IMA Scholar for Conservation Science. With her background in analytical chemistry and her interest in art, Jie found herself attracted to a career at the interface of the two disciplines. She was instrumental in establishing the IMA laboratory and working to incorporate the many new instruments. Her research focus was on applying correlative microscopic techniques in analyzing art objects, particularly in the preparation and analysis of painting cross-section samples.

Internships

The Conservation Science lab at the IMA offers unpaid academic year and summer internship opportunities for undergraduates and postgraduates in conservations science. Interns will participate in ongoing research projects focused on understanding the degradation of artists materials, studying new methods of conservation, or developing novel analytical strategies for artwork. Interns will also be exposed to and participate in technical studies of museum objects undergoing conservation or art historical investigation. Interested students should contact Dr. Gregory Smith to discuss possibilities prior to applying to the IMA's general internship program.

Recent interns include both university and high school students. Kwame Newton and Daniella Ash, both American Chemical Society Project SEED scholars, conducted materials-based research during the summer of 2011. Kwame’s project focused on a novel approach to preparing matte paint samples for analysis by infrared microscopy while Daniella researched the affect of solvents on thermoplastic polymers commonly used in art conservation.

Butler University student Maraya Baumanis joined the lab team for the Fall 2011 semester to earn course credit in physical chemistry. Maraya is exploring evaporation rates of cleaning solvents from painted surfaces using techniques like gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, gravimetry, and FTIR spectroscopy.