A magnifying glass focused on a book about Le Corbusier

Books in the Getty’s Conservation Collection used by architect Brinda Gaitonde-Nayak during her research on a Le Corbusier landmark in India

Each year the Getty offers grants to support short-term research using collections and resources in our library and archives. In 2018 these grants were expanded for the first time to provide researchers access to conservation-related material at the Research Library, including the Conservation Collection—specialized research materials related to the preservation and conservation of material cultural heritage. Beyond traditional books and journals, the collection also includes case studies, treatment reports, conference proceedings, government documents, theses, dissertations, archival holdings, and information on artists’ materials. The Conservation Collection is an ongoing collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Research Institute.

Applications for 2019 Library Research Grants are open now—read full details and apply online by October 15, 2018.

Earlier this year, the first three researchers to receive grants to use the Conservation Collection arrived at the Getty Center. They spoke to us about what brought them to the Getty and how the collection contributed to their research. Here are their projects, and their time at the Getty, in their own words.

Investigating Precedents for Adaptive Reuse—Alexis Cohen

Portrait of a white woman with brown hair standing in front of trees.

Alexis Cohen at the Getty Center

I’m originally from Toronto and have a background in architectural history. I became interested in the world of heritage conservation, also known as historic preservation in the United States, and I’m currently an Associate at ERA Architects, a Toronto-based firm specializing in heritage conservation, adaptive reuse, urban and rural planning, and landscape and urban design. At ERA, I work collaboratively with complex project teams using my doctoral training in architectural history to inform the conservation of evolving urban environments.

I came to the Getty to conduct research on adaptive reuse at Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village, a well-known Toronto site undergoing redevelopment by Westbank, a Vancouver-based developer. ERA is serving as a heritage consultant for the project. In the 1960s, Ed and Anne Mirvish transformed a Toronto city street lined with late-Victorian homes into a commercial and cultural enclave. On Markham Street—later known as Mirvish Village—living rooms became cafes and shop windows replaced front porches.

My research investigates adaptive reuse as a historical phenomenon, situating Mirvish Village in the context of social and economic forces in 1960s Toronto and underlying architectural and urban patterns in the city. It focuses on Toronto as a ‘City of Homes’ where residential architecture has become host to commercial and cultural uses and, in turn, the creation of public space within the city. This research draws upon my dissertation, which examined utility as an intellectual and aesthetic value in eighteenth-century Neoclassical design.

Stack of books related to Canadian architecture.

Conservation Collection materials used by Alexis during her time at the Getty

My research grant at the Getty allowed me to advance this project for the purposes of a commissioned essay for The Urban Ecologies of Mirvish Village, a book on the redevelopment of the site edited by Ilana Altman (for which E.R.A. serves as heritage consultant).This research led to an unexpected archival find in the Nikolaus Pevsner papers in Special Collections that both adds information to a case-study in my dissertation and opens a new line of inquiry related to Pevsner’s 1959 trip to Toronto.

Through discussions with Getty Conservation Institute staff, as well as the research librarians, I also collected best-practice documents and other resources that support my work in the field of heritage conservation. These resources included bibliographies of Conservation Institute publications, presentations, as well as unpublished material (which provide an overview of approaches and current thinking), publications on conservation management planning, and key texts such as the illustrated Burra Charter.

Unearthing the History of Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex—Brinda Gaitonde-Nayak

Portrait of an Indian woman with a floral shirt. She is sitting on a bed of grass.

Brinda Gaitonde-Nayak at the Getty Center

I’m originally from Bombay, India, and am an architect and historic preservation consultant. In May 2017 I was asked to look at the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India, a 1960s complex designed by Le Corbusier. We were asked to prepare a site management plan. It is amazing to me—having worked on sixth-century buildings in India, buildings which are far older than these modern 1960s buildings—that there is such a dearth of information about the Capitol Complex. What was even more amazing for an architect from Bombay, who now lives in Virginia, was that I had to come to Los Angeles to find information about these buildings in India. At the Getty, I was able to find a treasure trove of information about Le Corbusier, his buildings, and drawings.

I was able to carry out research on the original materials used by the Capital Project Team in the ’60s, because everything has changed as a result of decades of revisions and modifications to suit contemporary needs of the users. All of the original floors have been ripped open and replaced with marble or granite. The wall finishes, the furniture, everything has been completely changed, and we don’t have any good records for those in India.

A book, notebook, and magnifying glass.

Conservation Collection materials used by Brinda during her time at the Getty

Through my research I tried to arrive at near-exact specifications for concrete mixes and proportions as prescribed on site by the Capitol project team, to start the initial process of looking into restoration methodologies for concrete at the Capitol Complex by means of the necessary groundwork needed to undertake such a critical task. It has meant sifting through numerous records, publications on Chandigarh construction, as well as sketches and drawings by the Capitol project team. The latter perhaps provide some of the most authentic records of the materials and mixes used, and are thus invaluable in setting out a conservation plan. My research report is not intended to provide conservation solutions; rather it is an initial inquiry into the required process to evolve in a sense a repair manual for the buildings.

Developing a Theory of Conservation as a Critical Act—Muriel Verbeeck

Photo of a white woman with long hair standing in front of trees.

Muriel Verbeeck at the Getty Center

I’m a historian from Belgium with a PhD in philosophy and literature and a master’s degree in information and documentation sciences. I’m also a professor at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc de Liège and a visiting professor at the Institut National du Patrimoine in Paris. My research focuses on the history and theories of conservation and is practice oriented, with a strong emphasis on the axiological and, more generally, on the ethical dimension of conservation-restoration interventions.

The research I conducted at the Getty library and in the Conservation Collection is part of a broader project on the theorization of contemporary conservation. The aim of my research is to provide practitioners with conceptual tools to develop and support restoration as a critical act. I had already carried out bibliographic assessments and readings in 2017 at ICCROM in Rome toward this research, but the stay at the Getty allowed me to consult works and articles by English-speaking authors in their original language, particularly those by practitioners and scientists in conservation.

A photo of a book titled: Ethics and Critical Thinking in Conservation.

A book from the Getty’s Research Library that Muriel pulled while researching at the Getty

During my time at the Getty, I made full use of the works and articles available in the library, including books about American thinkers, aesthetics in art, visual culture, phenomenology, Gestalt Theory, and everything with a link to conservation. However, I was obliged to change the focus of my initial bibliographical search, mainly to widen it and explore new areas. While I made extensive use of the available resources at both the Research Institute and the Conservation Institute, I hope to return to the Getty in January 2019 to use the Special Collections to complete this part of my research. Meeting and talking to the staff, and exchanging with other researchers such as Professor Henri Zerner, opened up new opportunities. I was also able to further develop my project and my approaches thanks to these discussions.


Read more about Library Research Grants and apply online here.

Photos by Tristan Bravinder