Debra Hess Norris is Chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware, and Professor of Photograph Conservation. She graduated magna cum laude with an interdisciplinary BA degree in chemistry, art history, and studio art (1977) and MS in conservation (1980) from the University of Delaware.
Since 1985, Norris has authored more than 30 articles and book chapters on care and treatment of photographic materials, emergency response, ethics, and conservation education; and taught more than 100 workshops and seminars for conservators and allied professionals. Norris has lectured and consulted on the preservation of photographic collections worldwide, including in Russia, India, Lebanon, Columbia, Denmark, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Mexico, Israel, Peru, Australia, and New Zealand.
She greatly enjoys fund raising and has secured nearly $13 million in external grants for the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware. Norris was the chair of Heritage Preservation (2003- 2008) and president of the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (1993-97). From 1990-93 she chaired the AIC Ethics and Standards Committee that developed a revised Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. She has served as president of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts Board (CCAHA), US commissioner to UNESCO, and project director of The Andrew W. Mellon Collaborative Workshops in Photograph Conservation. In October 2009, Norris and Vinod Daniel co-chaired the Salzburg Global Seminar that was funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and convened 60 invited delegates from around the world in Salzburg, Austria to address pressing challenges associate with the preservation of our global cultural heritage. Recently, she has spoken at many of the IMLS Connecting to Collections national conferences on topics ranging from the preservation of photographic materials to fund raising for collections care.
Norris is treasurer of the Friends of the National Gallery of Denmark, a member of the visiting committee for the Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the advisory committee for the Foundation for the AIC Collaborative Photograph Conservation Workshops, and serves on the CCAHA and Delaware Theatre Company Board of Directors. Recent international collaborations include compelling preservation initiatives with the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut, Lebanon, the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, Iraq, and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 2002, Norris was inducted into the University of Delaware’s Alumni Wall of Fame. In January 2004, she was appointed as the Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts. Norris has received the Rutherford John Gettens Merit Award for outstanding service to the American Institute for Conservation (1998), the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for excellence in the education and training of conservation professionals (2004), and the American Institute for Conservation University Products Award for distinguished achievement in the conservation of cultural property (2008).
She co-edited a compilation of fundamental writings in the field of photograph conservation with Jennifer Jae Gutierrez – Issues in the Conservation of Photographs – published by the Getty Conservation Institute in 2010.
Norris has served the College of Arts and Sciences as the interim associate dean for the arts and humanities (2006-07), associate dean for the social sciences (2007-08), interim associate dean for the arts (2011-12), and from 2010-12 the associate dean for graduate education. Norris co-chaired the University of Delaware Path to Prominence strategic planning process (2007-2009) and served as vice provost for graduate and professional education in 2008-10.