UCLA Ed & IS Magazine: Conservation of Featherwork

Ellen Pearlstein is a researcher in the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Materials.

In her work as a researcher and scholar of the conservation of cultural artifacts, Ellen Pearlstein has studied the use and pres­ervation of natural materials, the role of indigenous communities in decision-making for exhibits and institutions that present cultur­al objects, and the education of conservators. A professor in the UCLA Department of Information Studies, Pearlstein focuses her research broadly on preservation principles, and her research in­cludes studies of Native American featherwork. She has done ex­tensive studies on the featherwork of the Maidu, Pomo, and Miwok tribes of California, as well as the featherwork of the Tulalip, a Coastal Salish tribe near Seattle.

UCLA Professor of Information Studies Ellen Pearlstein

Pearlstein’s book, “The Conservation of Featherwork from Central and South America” was inspired by a course on Amazonian featherwork that Pearlstein taught at UCLA and a major collection of these artifacts at the Fowler Museum. While the book focuses on ways of preserving these artifacts and the highly vulnerable materials from which they are made, Pearlstein has written numerous articles on the cultural and ethnographic significance of featherwork and its embodiment of tribal pride and power.

Professor Pearlstein teaches in the UCLA/Getty Interdepartmen­tal Program in the Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeolog­ical Materials and Conservation of Material Culture Ph.D. program. She is the principal investigator for a project that aims to increase diversity in the conservation field, supported by the Mellon Foundation and working in collaboration with the University of California, the California State University, and institutions with large populations of underrepresented students.

In 2009, Pearlstein was honored with the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for distinguished teaching and mentoring from the American Insti­tute for Conservation. She is a fellow of both the American Institute for Con­servation and the International Institute for Conservation.

To read the Q&A with Professor Ellen Pearlstein, visit this link.

Above: Karajá feathered skirt/belt, Fowler Museum at UCLA, X70.1838, detail of feather securing methods.

Courtesy of Heather White