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Recent Advances in Characterizing Asian Lacquers Workshop Application Announcement


The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the Palace Museum are partnering to offer the fifth Recent Advances in Characterizing Asian Lacquers workshop, to be hosted at the Palace Museum, Beijing, China, April 18-26, 2024.

The workshop will explore newly developed analytical procedures for acquiring detailed compositional information about Asian lacquers, their additives and their European substitutes. During the workshop, conservators and scientists will work together in research teams to study and discuss historic lacquer samples. The workshop itself will be 5 days long (April 22-26), with 2 additional days the week before (April 18-19) to offer training in microscopy for participants who did not receive such training before.

This is a unique opportunity for collaboration and discussion of topics such as the compositional variation in lacquered objects made in different geographical areas and time periods, the relevance of analytical research to the conservation and interpretation, and the identification of research priorities and potential collaborations.

Workshop Details


  • To highlight the benefits that collaboration between scientists and conservators can provide.
  • To enhance the understanding of a lacquered surface through the study of its stratigraphy and composition.
  • To demonstrate new analytical protocols and the level of information that can be obtained using these methods.
  • To provide participants with the tools necessary to use these methods, such as a marker compound database and custom data evaluation tools.
  • To identify pressing analytical and conservation issues in the field and priorities for future research.

The workshop provides instruction in the following low-tech and high-tech procedures with the aim of identifying traditional and non-traditional materials in Asian lacquers:

  • Visible and fluorescent light microscopic examination of chemically-stained lacquer cross-sections which can provide visual, layer-specific information for a number of organic materials.
  • Precision sample collection of discrete lacquer layers which permits layer-specific compositional information to be obtained.
  • Pyrolysis - gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry with thermally-assisted hydrolysis and methylation (THM-Py-GC/MS), which is a versatile method with excellent limits of detection.
  • A systematic protocol for data analysis and interpretation using AMDIS (Automated Mass spectral Deconvolution and Identification System) and Excel, with a shared marker compound database that permits detection of a broad range of marker compounds even when present at trace levels.

The concepts taught in the workshop may also be applied to the study of materials other than lacquer.


Applicants should be conservators, scientists or conservation scientists. Scientists should have an established record of using Py-GC/MS or GC/MS; familiarity with AMDIS and Excel is helpful. Experience in lacquer analysis is not required, although priority will be given to those with current or future projects involving the analysis of Asian lacquer. Would scientists only have limited experience with Py-GC/MS or GC/MS, there could be a possibility for them to get training by the Palace Museum scientists prior to the workshop (level of experience to be clearly stated in application). Conservators should have experience treating Asian lacquer and be familiar with its properties and production.

As part of the application process, each conservator will be asked to propose sample material from a specific lacquered object for potential use in the workshop, based on the following criteria:

  • The object should be of significance within its collection and considered important from the historical and/or technological point of view.
  • The participant should be confident that permission of the owner will be given to take a sample of approximately 2x2mm from the object for destructive analysis.
  • The participant must ensure that permission is granted to present and discuss analytical results acquired during the workshop.

A limited number of proposed samples will be accepted for study in the workshop and conservators will be responsible for preparing these samples in advance of the workshop; specific instructions for sampling and documentation of sample will be provided to successful candidates. In the instance where a conservator is not able to provide a sample but has identified a scientist partner who can, the scientist can bring the sample and provide the information requested above for the application. If conservators are not trained in microscopy, their sample can be prepared during the 2 days offered prior to the workshop (April 18-19). In this case, they will prepare over the weekend (April 20-21) the documentation needed to present their sample - and object it comes from - to the group the first day of the workshop (April 22).


Please download and fill out the application form and submit it before the deadline of November 20th, 2023.


Scientists and conservators work in research teams of two during the workshop. The application includes a place to identify a potential partner. Priority will be given to proposed partnerships that include one scientist and one conservator.  Ideally, partners will be committed to future collaboration. Proposed partnerships are encouraged but not required to apply.  The final selection of applicants will be made by organizers according to the criteria outlined above.

There is no registration fee to attend the workshop but participants are responsible for all expenses associated with the workshop, including travel and lodging.

For questions about the workshop or application process, or for additional information, please contact or (English only).


Michael Schilling – Senior Scientist and head of the Organic Materials Research at the GCI, specializing in GC/MS and thermal analysis techniques.

Arlen Heginbotham – Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum, specializing in the technical examination of furniture.

Nanke Schellmann – independent conservator and researcher at SchellmannConservation in Munich, specializing in the conservation and analysis of mixed media objects and the characterization and treatment of degraded decorative surfaces.

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