Using my chemistry background in art conservation

Ashley Kosa ’15

Ashley Kosa ’15

Ashley Kosa ’15, Art Gallery intern at Yale University

Major: Art Conservation (Special Major)

Internship: Art Gallery at Yale University

During my summer at the Yale University Art Gallery, I worked as part of a museum initiative to conserve the "Procopius Mosaic" created in the mid-6th century C.E. Gerasa, Jordan. My primary focus was the cleaning and stabilization of the work that had been neglected for over seventy years in museum storage.

My chemistry background was integral to the work done during that summer since an extensive knowledge of chemistry is needed to follow the major tenets of proper conservation procedure, which are: never do something which cannot be undone, and preserve as much of the original object as possible.

For instance, the mosaic had been coated with a layer of linseed oil that has yellowed since the 1930s. This addition needed to be removed because it had compromised the integrity of the work by altering its surface colors. However, such a removal necessitated a solvent that would soak into the linseed oil to separate it from the mosaic underneath without compromising its stone or mortar. Further, there were areas that needed more stability through the use of adhesives, but such additions also needed to be soluble in common solvents to be easily removed during future conservation work.