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Yan Ling Choi (WUDPAC Class of 2020) and Dr. Rosie Grayburn use XRF to examine a Victorian scrapbook housed in the Grossman Collection at Winterthur Library. (Image: Evan Krape/UD)
The Department of Art Conservation values empathy, cultural identity, inclusion, and social connection as integral to the care of material culture. We are committed to educating professionals skilled in the analysis, treatment, and preservation of cultural artifacts by connecting disciplines in the arts, humanities, and sciences.
Our undergraduate degree in art conservation is one of a kind – no other program in the United States has professional conservators as permanent faculty with real-world experience caring for collections. This distinguished program prepares students for graduate-level study in the conservation of material culture and related fields, such as historic preservation, museum studies, archeology, art history, library science, and more. We offer our students the opportunity to study and conserve a wide range of fine art, library, archaeological, and indigenous materials from UD Special Collections & Museums and cultural institutions, including Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Penn Museum, the Hispanic Society in New York City, and the Legacy Museum at Tuskegee University.
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Through our jointly sponsored Master's-level Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), one of four such programs nationally, graduate students study the history, technology of cultural heritage and its preservation. They use state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation found in Winterthur's conservation studios and research laboratories to interpret, document, analyze, treat, and preserve a wide range of cultural artifacts, from local family treasures to internationally recognized collections that range from ancient artifacts to contemporary art. Students gain further practical experience in serving local and global communities through free-of- charge conservation clinics centered on the care of personal treasures, public presentations and tours, collaborative programming, and international research travel. WUDPAC students may specialize in eight disciplines: textiles, furniture and wooden objects, works on paper, photographs, paintings, organic and inorganic objects, library and archival materials, and preventive conservation. Students graduate to secure post-graduate fellowships and positions in private practice, regional centers, and major cultural institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
Magdalena Solano (WUDPAC Class of 2022) examines a detail on a landscape by Feliciano Carvallo using a Hirox microscope. (Image: Evan Krape/UD)
The Preservation Studies Doctoral Program prepares students to pursue advanced research in any of the specialties listed above in addition to urban planning and historic preservation of the built environment. Former students have studied the techniques and conservation of works by artists such as Willem De Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and Albert Pinkham Ryder; the preservation of Chinese lacquerware, Native American beadwork, or fossil bones, history and preservation of outbuildings, and the traditional techniques of Kurdish weavers. Current students are investigating topics, including African American jewelry and the preservation of collections in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This is a dynamic interdisciplinary program involving leading faculty from Art Conservation, Art History, Anthropology, History, Geology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Museum Studies, Disaster Research, Africana Studies, and the Center for Historic Architecture and Design.
Department graduates from these programs have preserved such irreplaceable objects as the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Star Spangled Banner, works of art by Old Masters and contemporary artists from Raphael to Basquiat, architectural interiors from the White House to the Forbidden City in China, dinosaur bones, Egyptian faience, Native American basketry, early American cabinetry, Babe Ruth's baseball contract, Elvis Presley's gold records, the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, C3PO from Star Wars, and offerings to the George Floyd Square. Our faculty and graduates respond to natural emergencies and assist with the preservation of at-risk collections from Cuba to Iraq.
In the years ahead, we will continue to assess our curriculum, strengthen international partnerships, and engage communities and public audiences as we collectively preserve the world's artistic and cultural heritage for the enrichment of current and future generations.
— UD Department of Art Conservation, September 2021