The Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation began in 1974. It was established as a joint program following the precedent set by the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture that began in 1952, with a master’s degree awarded by the University of Delaware. Henry Francis du Pont, founder of the Museum, understood the need for conservation; he had invited Harold Plenderleith of the Rome Center to visit the Museum to advise on environmental control and fire prevention in the late 1950s. Mr. du Pont envisioned a master’s program in art conservation when a new Research Building was opened in 1969. After his death, a committee composed of University and Museum representatives continued an investigation into the establishment of a graduate program in conservation. Visits were made to existing programs at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University and to the Cooperstown Graduate Program (now located at Buffalo State College).
The Winterthur conservation staff members who teach for the Master's-level program have affiliated appointments at the University of Delaware. The relationship between the University and Winterthur is highly collaborative. The Winterthur faculty are exceptional professionals who contribute significantly to the program throughout the three years of a student’s tenure and beyond.