Friday, May 17 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Research & Technical Studies) Wood You Rather? Exploring the Complementarity of Chemotaxonomic Approaches to Mahogany Identification

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Wood identification, specifically mahogany (Swietenia) species identification, through chemotaxonomy is a re-emerging research area that has sprouted primarily from thermal desorption gas chromatograph/mass spectrometry (TD-GC/MS) and direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (DART-MS). The practical question arising from these exciting and innovative research veins is: Do objects conservators need to find a collaborator with a DART-MS or can they work with a conservation scientist to do TD-GC/MS? This talk explores the interaction of each technique with wood samples by characterizing the marker compounds, their distribution throughout the parent tree, and their importance to the final identification. Recent research at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) has converged over the identification of wood species used in decorative arts objects using a chemotaxonomic approach when a traditional anatomical approach is not feasible. The GCI has spearheaded the MOXI project (Molecular Xylem Identification), which is an innovative application of TD-GC/MS and the creation of an INT-SUM mass spectral “fingerprint” library using F-Search (Frontier Laboratories, LTD). IPCH has partnered with the GCI for a cross-lab method validation, and has applied the method to the analysis of mahogany pieces in the Rhode Island furniture collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG). Additional research at IPCH and the National Institute of Standards and Technology has attempted to isolate and identify the marker compounds, and assess their robustness with respect to anatomical point of origin in the tree. DART-MS is a way to analyze slivered or powdered wood samples using an ionizing stream under ambient conditions. DART-MS analysis revealed the presence of high molecular weight ions that were statistically important to the identification of mahogany species, TD-GC/MS analyses with and without chemical derivatization do not suggest these compounds are detectable in their intact or decomposed forms by this method. Heating in ampules filled with argon followed by solvent extraction of residue and subsequent analysis by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry were performed to ascertain if these high molecular weight compounds are liberated by thermal desorption from the wood and are detectable by DART-MS but not by GC/MS. Initial results show that these compounds are indeed liberated by thermal desorption, and research into the identity of these compounds is still ongoing. Additional discussion will focus on the statistical value of these compounds to the differentiation of mahogany species from one another, and the application of TD-GC/MS to species identification.


Katherine Schilling

Associate Conservation Research Scientist, Yale University
Katherine Schilling is an associate conservation research scientist at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and an associate research scientist and lecturer in the department of Chemical Engineering at Yale University. She earned her PhD in chemical physics at the... Read More →

avatar for Arlen Heginbotham

Arlen Heginbotham

Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, J. Paul Getty Museum
Arlen Heginbotham received his A.B. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and his M.A. in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College. He is currently Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Arlen’s research interests include the history... Read More →
avatar for Edward R. Sisco

Edward R. Sisco

Research Chemist, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Ed Sisco has been a research chemist in the Surface and Trace Chemical Analysis Group since 2014. His professional background is in the development of mass spectrometry systems and methods for forensic applications. Current research efforts focus on the development of novel ambient... Read More →
avatar for Michael R. Schilling

Michael R. Schilling

Senior Scientist, Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Michael Schilling is head of Materials Characterization research at the Getty Conservation Institute, which focuses on development of analytical methods for studying classes of materials used by artists and conservators. He specializes in gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and... Read More →
avatar for Randy S. Wilkinson

Randy S. Wilkinson

Conservator, Fallon & Wilkinson, LLC
RANDY S. WILKINSON is a furniture conservator and principal in the firm of Fallon & Wilkinson, LLC in Baltic, CT. He received his training at the Smithsonian Institution’s Furniture Conservation Training Program and earned his Master’s degree from Antioch University in 2000. He... Read More →
avatar for Richard R. Hark

Richard R. Hark

Assistant Conservation Scientist, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Dr. Richard R. Hark is an assistant conservation scientist at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). He is currently on leave from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania where he is the H. George Foster Professor of Chemistry. Dr. Hark earned degrees... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 2:00pm - 2:30pm
Nehantic/Pequot/Paugussett Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  • Track Research & Technical Studies
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Katherine A. Schilling, Michael R. Schilling, Edward R. Sisco, Arlen Heginbotham, Randy Wilkinson, Richard Hark
  • Abstract ID 18857
  • Tags mahogany,wood identification,decorative arts,furniture,mass spectrometry

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