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 electrochemical cleaning techniques, and metals coating procedures are addressed.
Second-year master's-level students majoring in objects conservation work in a three-room suite, which includes the Objects Lab, the Metal Working Lab, and the Metals Conservation Lab. Treatment projects include objects made from a variety of materials (for example: ceramics, glass, metal, ivory, plastic, and plant materials) covering several disciplines in the field of objects conservation (decorative arts, ethnographic, modern and contemporary and archaeological). Object treatment projects are often provided by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, the Delaware State Museum, the Delaware Museum of Natural History, local museums, universities, and historical societies, as well as private collections.
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 and 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 Lauren Fair and Lara Kaplan.