The study of objects conservation during the first year of the Master’s-level program is divided into an organic and inorganic materials block. The organic materials conservation block covers the material science, analysis, treatment, and preservation of modern plastics, leather, feathers, bone, horn, ivory, hair, wood, and other plant and animal materials, including natural history specimens. During the inorganic materials conservation block, students study metals, glass, and ceramic materials, as well as outdoor sculpture, and stone. Topics such as mold making and casting, glass reassembly, removal of soluble salts, mechanical and electrocleaning techniques, and metals coating procedures are addressed.
Second-year Master’s-level students majoring in objects conservation work in the three-room objects laboratory. Treatment projects include objects made from a variety of materials (e.g. ceramics, glass, metal, ivory, and plant materials) covering several disciplines in the field of objects conservation (decorative arts, ethnographic, and archaeological). Indigenous object treatment projects are from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and decorative arts treatment projects are culled from the Winterthur and private collections. Archaeological treatment projects may be taken from the collections of the Delaware State Museum or other local cultural institutions.
In working on conservation projects, students are encouraged to study and understand material culture and/or art historical aspects of the objects under their care through review of relevant anthropological, art history, and material culture literature. Using both bench-top microchemical techniques and instrumental analysis, students study the physical/chemical nature of the objects to gain an understanding of deterioration processes to better determine appropriate conservation techniques. A series of seminars is also offered to the students on a weekly basis on particular techniques useful in objects conservation such as mist consolidation of friable surfaces, adhesive repair of leather, inpainting of porcelain and ceramics, and many others.
Master’s-level students majoring in objects conservation are supervised by Bruno Pouliot with assistance from Lara Kaplan.