Gels in Paper Conservation

July 17 – 19, 2019
The Getty Villa, Malibu, CA
Instructors: Anne Maheux and Michelle Sullivan
Organizer: Marc Harnly

Gels Workshop

While gel systems have been used within other conservation specializations for decades, their adoption by paper conservators is relatively recent. This workshop will provide theoretical background and practical experience working with two rigid gels systems—agarose and gellan gum—for treating paper-based works of art and historic artifacts.

Both agarose and gellan gum are naturally-occurring polysaccharide gels used primarily in the biological sciences and food and cosmetic industries. Through this workshop, paper conservators will develop an understanding of the gels’ physical and chemical properties and how they can be tailored to suit a specific treatment. The workshop will begin with an introduction to the chemistry and mechanics of agarose and gellan gum followed by demonstrations of preparation and application. Significant time will be dedicated to hands-on work with expendable paper objects and mock-ups. Applications covered in the workshop will include both overall treatments—bathing, backing removal, and humidification—and local treatments—stain reduction, attachment removal, and solvent-based adhesive reduction—among others. There are many possible applications yet to be explored for these materials and this workshop is intended to provide an introduction to its current and potential uses.


This workshop is now full. Please contact to be placed on the waitlist.

The fee for this course is $499 AIC members; $649 non-AIC members. Limited to 16 participants. This workshop is appropriate for mid-career paper conservators

FAIC's registration policies for professional development programs can be found here.

About the Instructors

Anne Maheux is former Head, Conservation of maps, manuscripts, and fine art on paper at Library and Archives Canada, and former paper conservator at the National Gallery of Canada.  She holds a Masters in Art Conservation from Queen’s University (1981), and earned a certificate in the conservation of works of art on paper from the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard (1982). She is a recipient of the Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome (1996).  Anne has conducted extensive research into the pastel techniques of Edgar Degas and other 19th century pastellists.  She has also researched, published and conducted workshops on practical applications of innovative conservation materials and techniques applied to paper objects, including the mounting of oversize works on paper, the use of Lascaux synthetic adhesives, and most recently, the use of polysaccharide gels (AIC Montreal workshop, Montreal, Quebec, 2016). 

Michelle Sullivan is an Assistant Conservator in the Department of Paper Conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She holds an M.S. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation where she specialized in works on paper with a minor concentration in photographic materials. Her training has included graduate internships and fellowships at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently, Michelle is working with scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute to develop a framework for non-invasive, in-situ analysis of drawings and media characterization. She also researches the application of rigid polysaccharide gels for paper conservation treatment, a subject on which she has previously lectured, published, and taught workshops. Most recently—working with colleagues from the Department of Scientific Research at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Department of Chemistry at Georgetown University—she completed a residue study to investigate the impact of rigid gel treatment on paper objects. Michelle presented the results of this residue study at the Gels in the Conservation of Art conference organized by The Tate and International Academic Projects in October 2017.

Travel and Accommodations

Information coming soon.

Scholarship Funding

FAIC/NEH Individual Professional Development Scholarships
With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, FAIC offers scholarships up to $1,000 to help defray professional development costs for individual members of AIC who are U.S. residents. Applications for funding are due February 15 and May 15.


Donate to FAIC

  Without support, the registration fee for this workshop would be $1,050. FAIC relies on your contributions to support these and its many other programs.

Funding for this program comes from  a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding comes from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Endowment for Professional Development, which was created by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is supported by donations from members of the American Institute for Conservation and its friends. Courses are made possible with the assistance of many AIC members, but no AIC membership dues were used to create or present this course.

Contact: Sarah Saetren
Education Coordinator
(202) 661-8071

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