Cotsen Institute Welcomes Thiago Puglieri to Conservation Program

“Deep knowledge of the chemistry of cultural heritage materials and their preservation” is being brought to the UCLA/Getty Interdepartmental Program in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage as it welcomes Thiago Sevilhano Puglieri as assistant professor of art history and cultural heritage conservation, according to Glenn Wharton, chair of the Conservation Program. Puglieri, who joined the faculty on November 1, 2022, “squarely fits our program values of sustainability, collaborative practice, diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Wharton continued. “He has long advocated these principles in Brazil through his work with students from underrepresented communities.”


Obtaining a PhD in physical chemistry in 2015, Puglieri’s primary research interest has been the characterization of materials of art and cultural objects, analytical method development, and on understanding degradation processes. He most recently served as professor in the Department of Museology, Conservation and Restoration of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. In 2019–2020, he was a visiting researcher at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, where he was well-known and respected, according to Wharton. “A number of their staff scientists have reached out to congratulate us and expressed interest in future collaborations,” Wharton noted.


As a professor at an Institute of Human Sciences in Brazil, Puglieri worked as the only chemist in their Department of Museology, Conservation and Restoration. “It was an amazing opportunity for me to be close to people with totally different points of view of cultural heritage. I was fascinated with that and was trying to combine my background with theirs,” he noted. While doing his PhD, he was already working in cultural heritage, doing both laboratory and field research. During that time, he also had the opportunity to work more closely with conservators and private collectors. “In addition, I began my work with communities during these past seven years,” he explained.


After participating in some conferences and seminars organized by his colleagues from the human and social sciences who were working with local communities, Puglieri tried to determine how he could add his knowledge and perspective to what they were doing. This resulted in a project with high school students and teachers in Brazil to develop, apply, and evaluate the impact of teaching strategies for those students. In addition to teaching chemistry using cultural heritage and historical information, one of the main goals was to transform (or at least to encourage) students to be agents of preservation, Puglieri explained. “They evaluated and explored not only how the teaching of chemistry can benefit from cultural heritage, but also how cultural heritage can benefit from the teaching of chemistry,” he added. During those discussions, they addressed not only nationally recognized heritage in the city, but also the value of local and individual heritage for the students.


At UCLA, Puglieri hopes to use his knowledge in activities on campus, especially in art history and with indigenous people. “I have been working with different kinds of materials, artworks, and artifacts. But the focus now is mainly on indigenous objects, especially from the Americas. Working with other professionals, I would like to explore how I could involve these indigenous communities inside conservation science and preventive conservation.


“I think that the most difficult challenge is to find people that are open to think about this kind of cooperation and who have a similar interests. In the beginning, we will need to talk a lot, get to know each other better, and find common points of interest. This was a challenge in Brazil, but I think that it might be easier here. During the last few months, I have been contacting people from Latin America who have been working with indigenous communities, especially inside art history. Some people inside the UCLA conservation program are working with these indigenous communities, and they are very open and interested in working together,” he explained.


“The idea of my research comes from three interconnected fields. One is the technical understanding, properties and conservation of cultural heritage objects and materials. The second is the development of analytical methodologies for the investigation and understanding of cultural heritage materials. And the third is an intangible and social approach in conservation science and preventive conservation.”


Puglieri has been professionally active in Brazil, serving as the vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Research in Heritage Science and Technology and the coordinator of the Division of Investigation of Materials, Systems, and Techniques of the Technical Commission for Cultural Heritage of the Brazilian Association of Non-Destructive Testing and Inspection. He also serves on the international advisory committee of the project “An International Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science” coordinated by the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science.


He has co-published a range of studies based on his research on the analysis of pigments, ceramics, metal objects, and paintings, using a wide range of analytical tools. His family will join him in California early next year and he eagerly anticipates the arrival of a new bike to help him indulge his love for biking, which expanded when he was last in Southern California. He invites you to contact him at or in his office on campus.


Published on November 16, 2022.