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Mapping Color in History


With the support from the Tata Trusts grant, the project proposed to conduct pigment analysis on Indian manuscripts and paintings in a few prominent collections in India. In partnership with local conservators, the project’s initial aim was to collect analytical data from scientific analysis of materials, especially pigments, used by painters and manuscript makers in India throughout the second millennium. The project brought together experts from Harvard to work with local experts and their apprentices in India on building knowledge of conservation of India’s art using portable equipment.

During the term of the grant, the team developed templates that could be used broadly by conservators as tools to document their pigment analysis for conservation of art in the field. The project activities enabled training apprentices across India who are conserving art in situ. The MCH (Mapping Color in History) digital tools can help conservators in India to document and organize their findings and share globally, which in turn will help make informed decisions about conservation treatment while contributing to the global knowledge common on historical data on pigments. By initiating scientific research on pigments on historically invaluable manuscripts and paintings, the project helped in improving the local knowledge and experts’ capacity to conduct scientific analytical research in conservation.

Data accumulated through the project, including data reporting formats and templates, protocols for establishing a research-based conservation project, and a succinct and usable literature review on existing studies on pigments, will be shared locally across India and will help produce better conservation treatment plans and build expertise of junior conservators.