Undergraduates in the Art Conservation Program at the University of Delaware are encouraged to pursue summer and winter internships in order to cultivate a familiarity with the musuem field. The undergraduates during the summer of 2012 undertook a variety of educational experiences across the United States. From the documentation and treatment of dresses from the early twentieth century to participating in the operation of an art gallery in Italy, an antiques auction house in New England, students explored the endless avenues of opportunity that cultural, historic, and artistic institutions can provide to those eager to learn. Whether desiring to gain preprogram experience for graduate scholarship in Art Conservation, or pursuing a career in collections management and other museum-related positions, students of the undergraduate program in Art Conservation develop the valuable skills necessary to be responsible custodians of cultural heritage through their active participation in the care and preservation of material culture.
Featured below are a sample of individual statements from the students who pursued summer internships.
Beth Knight, Class of 2014: "My internship this summer, under the supervision of Drs. Vicki Cassman and Dilia Lopez-Gydosh, revolved around the conservation and exhibition of a dress that will be dispayed in Old College Gallery in 2013. This dress was worn by Iva Mae Bartlett for her graduation from Northwestern University in 1911. Its conservation is vital for exhibition since the weighted silk of the underskirt was severely shattered. Shattering, a condition unique to weighted silk where the fabric becomes brittle due to treatment with metal salts, causes the fibers to easily break. Because the dress was in otherwise unaltered condition, the desire to keep the dress in its original state conflicted with the concern of displaying an already damaged dress. However, the need to display historical garments as complete pieces allows for some leeway. In order to safely display the dress, I removed the underskirt and stabilized it seperately from the dress by encasing it in a custom fabric net case. Then, I created a modern replica, made to be displayed with the dress. The overskirt was also removed and wet cleaned, and I began dye samples in an attempt to match the original color of the underskirt for the replica. I discovered that reports detailing the condition of the dress before, during, and after conservation treatment are fundamental to conservation, so that the details of the authentic dress can be referenced in the future."
Megan Murphey, class of 2014: "This summer I worked as an intern at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. I worked in the library with the molusk archives. My main job at the museum was to organize all of the records from a specific donor, write a biography about the donor, and write easy to follow instructions on how to use the donors records. These records included field notes, personal correspondences, and documentation of the donation of the collection to the Delaware Musuem of Natural History. With each collection, I put all the records in acid free folders, labeled in archival ink, and put into acid free boxes. Then I organized all the archives into two metal cabinets labeled 'Mollusk Archives.' Each cabinet had a shelf list. Other jobs included swapping acidic boxes for acid free boxes in the mollusk collections and a map inventory project."
Patricia Johnston, Class of 2013: "At the start of the summer, I was working as an exhibit painter for an aquarium. I was an intern working there since January building exhibits for a new building that was being constructed. We built trees from the ground up using cement. I also got a chance to work with epoxy and thickened resin and learned how to fiber glass. When it was time to install and finish the exhibit and building, they offered to keep me on as a paid intern to be the exhibit painter. It was an amazing experience, I learned tons of new skills and met some incredibly talented people. The last two weeks of August I worked as an in-residence, two week intensive intern for the Ellen Frank Illumination Arts Foundation. We worked around 13 hours a day in the studio learning how to guild and doing research for a new manuscript design. We used authentic materials, and I got to work on vellum and papyrus and used egg tempera, which was something I've always wanted to do. We also made our own glue from garlic for guilding. Once I got the technique down, I got to guild on the actual manuscripts that were being published. It was a wonderful opportunity."
Amaris Sturm, Class of 2014: "This summer I did an internship at Garth's Auction House in Delaware, Ohio. I got an up close look at the functioning of an auction house. I worked in many aspects ranging from unpacking boxes and working with cataloging and set-up, to the auction itself. I got to handle objects and apply the knowledge I have learned in my time in the Art Conservation program at the University of Delaware. I was also taught about the different objects that went through the auction house and the history behind them."
Kelsey Wingel, Class of 2014: "This summer I interned in the Registration Department and paper conservation lab at Winterthur Museum. In the Registration Department, I was able to gain a wealth of handling experience as well as help the inventory team take stock of the collections, condition report returning loans, re-install period rooms, scan room files for the online database, and number objects. In the paper conservation lab, under the guidance of conservator Joan Irving, I was fortunate to participate in treatments such as surface cleaning, mending tears, relaxing creases, and re-adhering cloth to board for the upcoming needlework exhibition at Winterthur, "With Cunning Needle." Both departments provided me with wonderful opportunities this summer and I learned a great deal about art conservation as well as the interdepartmental teamwork necessary to make a musuem a successful institution."
Elizabeth Diker, Class of 2014: "During my summer, I participated in an internship at the Staten Island Museum, in Staten Island, New York. I learned many invaluable things during the course of the summer, including how to operate Past Perfect, the museum's database system. The most exciting part of the internship, however, was being able to go to the Crozier Fine Arts Storage Facility in Newark, New Jersey. The site was under hearvy security, and when I went in for the first time, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was moving their costume collection into one of the storage rooms. The Staten Island Museum's goal at Crozier over the summer was to re-wrap all of their paintings after the advice of a conservator. The paintings, including three Kress Foundation religious icons, were wrapped in bubble wrap, plastic, and tape. This was problematic because the lack of ventilation for the paintings could create microenvironments and foster the development of mold and other unfavorable conditions. With the help of my boss, another intern and I went about the task of unwrapping each painting. After they were unwrapped, they were placed back into shelves, separated by dividers, and covered in muslin. All things considered, it was an incredible experience."
Caroline Western, Class of 2013: "This summer, undergraduates Tyler Calder, Mary Hanes, and I volunteered at Winterthur's Textile Conservation Lab. The main focus was on a large collection of printed textiles that needed humidification in order to be photographed for an upcoming re-publication of "Printed Textiles: English and American cottons and linens, 1700-1850" by Florence M. Montgomery. Other projects included preparations for Winterthur's current "With Cunning Needle" needlepoint exhibition. This was a very fulfilling summer internship because of the variety of tasks I was given a chance to work on. Because our teacher, Amanda Holden, was just finishing up her graduate conservation studies, she was a great mentor who was easy to talk to and learn from. I would suggest a Winterthur internship or volunteer opportunity to any undergraduate looking for a summer experience or a for-credit internship during the year."
Katie Bonnano, Class of 2014: "As a student working with Dr. Vicki Cassman and Dr. Dilia Lopez-Gydosh, I completed a variety of tasks to prepare for an exhibit going up in Old College Gallery in 2013. The exhibit will display women's fashions from the 20th century, drawing from UD's Historic Costumes and Textiles Collection. As such, I was issued a dress to work on in order to prepare it for exhibit. My dress was a 1920's evening dress. Treatment for my 1920's evening dress included removing inauthentic additions, reinforcing and stabilizing beadwork and net, and constructing a slip to be displayed with the dress. In addition to treatments, which included extensive documentation, I worked on a podcast to be displayed with the dress and worked with Jan Broske to select artworks to be displayed with the dress. At the end of the summer, I gave a talk on my research and will continue finishing my project this fall and winter. This was truly an excellent experience!"