High School Interns Help with Conservation at Watts Towers

August 20, 2012

This summer, an exciting project has been happening at the Watts Towers Conservation Center. With support from the Ahmanson Foundation and in partnership with the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, LACMA created an eight-week internship during which three graduates of the UCLA/Getty Program are paired with two recent graduates of Verbum Dei High School. Verbum Dei’s Jesus Real and Hector Morataya worked with UCLA/Getty alums Molly Gleeson, Lily Doan, and Suzanne Morris. Here are some of their thoughts about their experiences so far.

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Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, 1921–1954, photo © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA

from Lily Doan and Molly Gleeson:

Being newcomers to this project, we spent the first week training under Watts Towers Conservation staff, and we are now responsible for teaching Hector and Jesus about the ongoing care and preservation activities on the site and for introducing them to the field of art conservation and historic preservation. Our work this summer will focus on a condition survey and the remedial treatment of two of the smaller structures (the A and B Towers) and the overhead connecting elements throughout the site, as well as archival research on the two smaller towers. We’re excited to be introducing Hector and Jesus to this work, which is very timely, as both are heading off to college in the fall and will soon be making decisions about their future career paths.


Up on the scaffolding, Hector Morataya cleans a detached green bottle glass fragment found on an overhead element.

from Jesus Real and Hector Morataya:

As students from Verbum Dei, a prominent institute in the Watts community, an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the world of conservation at a site so (literally) close to home was one that we could not pass up. This opportunity was made known to us through a teacher in our art history class, where we took a visit out to the towers themselves and learned about their history in the community as well as a bit about Sam Rodia. Now that we are actually working and learning new things each day on site, the entire experience seems only greater. In the first two weeks alone, we learned so much about the philosophies of conservation and the importance of preserving this historical and cultural landmark. Even more incredible is that we both are taking in this entire experience within our very own community. This is one aspect within the entirety of the project that we value greatly. We hope to keep up our work with the project and take in every part of the experience to our full advantage.


Jesus Real checking for loose fragments on an overhead element.