Architecture and Design, Conservation, Getty Research Institute

An Update on the Earthquake in Chile

Earthquake damage at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Talca, Chile. Photo: Jorge Sacaan Riadi

Earthquake damage at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Talca, Chile. Photo: Jorge Sacaan Riadi

The Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) is a tool for cataloging and retrieving art information. It is being translated into several languages. Our friend and colleague Lina Nagel (manager of the AAT Spanish translation project) at the Centro de Documentación de Bienes Patrimoniales (CDBP) in Santiago sent us the following report on the damage caused to Chilean cultural institutions by the recent earthquake:

Several Chilean museums and historic buildings incurred damage as a result of the massive earthquake that struck Chile on February 27, 2010.

Most of the museums under the Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos (DIBAM) were substantially undamaged both in terms of their architectural structure and their collections. Only the O’Higgins Museum in Talca and the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago were damaged structurally.

Of the private museums, I am happy to report that the Chilean Museum of Precolumbian Art in Santiago came through the earthquake without significant damage to its marvelous collection of ceramics, sculptures, and textiles.

Other private and municipal museums located in the VII, VIII, and IX regions incurred significant structural damage, and some collections have been irrevocably destroyed. Many of these museums had not applied the preventive conservation measures that were developed after the catastrophic earthquake of 1985 in Chile. However, the DIBAM museums and the Museum of Precolumbian Art, among others, had put those preventive measures into effect.

In addition to the loss and damage to cultural heritage institutions, countless houses, mansions, and chapels in the most heavily affected regions of Chile were severely damaged, both structurally and in terms of the objects they contained. Lamentably, most of these buildings and objects did not have adequate textual and visual documentation that would make it possible to restore or re-create them.

Our thoughts and best wishes are with Lina and her colleagues as they recover from this devastating earthquake. Thanks to Murtha Baca (head of GRI Digital Art History Access) for contacting Lina and translating her reply.

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      What unexpected thing have you learned by working at a museum?

      The more time you take with the art, the better. 

      The first time I saw a work by James Turrell, my eyes totally deceived me. I walked into the room (Acton, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and saw a gray rectangle “painting,” but I was baffled and could not figure it out—I got closer and closer until my face was pressed against the wall next to it, trying to figure out what it was. When my friend stuck her arm into the painting and revealed the illusion (a square cut into the wall and lit to look flat), my mind was blown! You got me so good, James.

      Also, always offer to take a family photo for the tourists!

      What do you wish you could tell all people about yourself, museums, or life? 

      Everyone is creative.

      Emily, Education Technologist at the Getty, July 24, 2014


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