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Ph.D. in Preservation Studies

​(PSP alumni dissertations can be found in the UD library system or through Proquest​.)​


​Golchin, a senne weaver with her son, and Reyhane. Naysar, Sanandaj, Iranian Kurdistan, January 2019. (Photograph by Saadat Aslani.)

Reyhane Mirabootalebi (2021) on "Kurdish Flatweaves and Weavers: Cultural Interweaving and Unraveling"

Reyhane’s research focused on preservation strategies and the impacts of ongoing regional conflicts on Kurdish textile traditions in Northern Iraq. She investigated material qualities such as changes in creation, production, design, material choice, and function; and immaterial qualities of the art form, such as artists’ (women’s) agency, ritual and spiritual uses, and local cultural heritage institutional roles (men’s agency) for maintaining these traditions. Factors such as loss of human lives, relocation, destruction or limited access to habitats, and economic instability, were explored in the context of potential maintenance, redevelopment or regeneration of traditional practices.

Mariana Di Giacomo (2019) on "The Effects of Preparation on Paleontological Scientific Analyses and Long-term Stability of Fossils"

For many years, fossils have been collected and prepared for both research and exhibition. Mechanical preparation with needles, hammers and chisels, and air scribes has been the most common method to release the fossils from their enclosing matrix. In addition, acid preparation has been used by many preparators when mechanical means we're not appropriate. Unfortunately, the consequences of using these preparation methods had not been addressed in a systematic way. Mariana Di Giacomo's research focused on the effects that fossil preparation has on the surface of fossilized remains, using analytical techniques such as electron microscopes and elemental analysis. She employed small dinosaur bone fragments from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and used analytical equipment both at NMNH and Winterthur Museum. [Committee: Vicki Cassman and Jocelyn Alcantara-Garcia (ARTC), Neil Sturchio (GEOL), Christopher Norris (Yale Peabody Museum), and Catharine Hawks (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution).]

Maria João Petisca (2019) on "Investigations into Chinese Export Lacquerware: Black and Gold, 1700-1850"

João Petisca's research focused on characterizing Chinese export lacquer production from 1700 to 1850. The group of objects studied were pieces coated with black lacquer decorated with gold and with manufacture attributed to South China, namely the area of Guangzhou. Associations of the objects with this city and surrounding areas in South China were investigated as well as evidence of provenance. Manufacturing techniques as well as identification of materials applied on the objects were used to further characterize the production of export lacquer from the workshops of that region. Archival research focused on and complemented the analytical results aiming to understand the trade of Chinese export lacquer imported to Europe and North America during the referred period. Materials used on the manufacture of the pieces as well as their stylistic features were investigated in order to further explore existing differences in commissioned pieces and more ubiquitous objects.​ After graduating, João began working in private practice as a furniture and lacquer conservator for both private and institutional clients. [Committee: Vimalin Rujivacharakul (ARTH), Stephanie Auffret (UD/Winterthur), Catherine Matsen (UD/Winterthur), Karina Corrigan (Peabody Essex Museum), and Christiaan J. A. Jörg (Leiden University).]

Kristin deGhetaldi (2016) on “From Egg to Oil: The Early Development of Oil Painting During the Quattrocento.”

Kristin deGhetaldi's research focused on developing a more accurate assessment of Quattrocento painting practice by preserving the original stratigraphy of paint cross-sectional samples during organic analysis. In her dissertation, Kristin summarized and identified newly recognized inaccuracies relating to early analytical protocols as contamination from restoration materials, the migration of fatty acids, the presence of reactive pigments, and the formation of degradation products are now known to affect the detection of certain chemical markers that are key in helping scientists to identify the binders present in a work of art. Her findings suggest that more sophisticated methods are required for distinguishing egg tempera from oil paints, indicating that earlier technical studies must now be re-evaluated in order to develop a more accurate understanding of Quattrocento painting techniques, workshop practices, attribution, and the diffusion of artistic processes throughout Europe. Kristin has recently participated in the development of University of Delaware’s technical art history website​, a two-year project sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, as well as the implementation of MITRA (Materials Information and Technical Resources for Artist), an online discussion forum for artists seeking to learn more about art materials and techniques. [Committee: Perry Chapman (ARTH), Joyce Hill Stoner (ARTC), Murray Johnston (CHEM), Chris Petersen (ARTC), Meredith Gill (ARTH, University of  Maryland).]

​​​​Click here to read more about the book PSP alumna Melissa Blair has co-authored on mid-Atlantic Art Deco.​

Melissa Blair (2014) on “Landscapes of Work: The Domestic Outbuildings of Central Maryland, 1760-1929.”

Melissa Blair’s research focused on springhouses, summer kitchens, bake ovens, smokehouses, root cellars, ice houses, dairies, washhouses, and other small buildings—sites of intense activity and production that were integral parts of farmsteads. Melissa’s work shed light on how these seemingly simple structures reveal patterns of familial interaction, divisions of labor, evolving household technology, and regional architectural characteristics. When examined in the context of emerging industrialization, these buildings point to changing social constructs, environmental values, and economic and demographic conditions. Melissa studied prototypes, chronology, geographic distribution, construction, and use of domestic outbuildings as a means to broaden our knowledge of rural life in the Mid-Atlantic region. Melissa's first position upon graduation was as a lecturer in public history at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. [Committee: Ritchie Garrison (HIST), Lu Ann De Cunzo (ANTH), Katherine Grier (HIST), Sally McMurry (Penn State).]

​Alumna Dawn Rogala's book. based on her dissertation research was published in 2016 as part of The Artist's Materials series produced by the Getty Conservation Institute. This is the second book in this series to be authored by doctoral alumni.

Dawn V. Rogala (2014) on “Hans Hofmann's Last Lesson: A Study of the Artist's Materials During the Last Decade of His Career.” 

Dawn Rogala’s research identified the late-career materials of Abstract Expressionist painter and teacher Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) and examined relationships among the artist’s materials, his signature painting style, and the physical and aging characteristics of his paintings. A catalogue of Hofmann’s materials was built from the analysis of over 500 paint and fiber samples focusing primarily on the last decade of the artist’s production, and a correlation found between condition issues in Hofmann’s work and a transitional mix of material and method endemic to Abstract Expressionist painting practice. This study revealed a gap in current research and preservation methodology regarding modernist painting practice, and shifts in conservation methodology for the treatment of modern paintings were suggested. The appendix accompanying the dissertation contains representative data for all analyses performed during the study (including optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and X-ray diffraction). Dawn Rogala's research will be the basis for the Getty Conservation Institute's 2016 offering in their "Artist's Materials" book series. After graduation, Dawn began work as a paintings conservator at the Museum Conservation Institute, Smithsonian Institution. [Committee: Joyce Hill Stoner (ARTC), Roberta Tarbell (adjunct Art Historian for ARTC), Murray Johnston (CHEM), Jill Sterrett (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), Christopher Maines (National Gallery of Art).]

​Alumna Marina Dobronovskaya has now received two awards for her book on historic preservation in Moscow.

Marina Dobronovskaya (2013) on “The Material Culture of Stalinism: The City of Novgorod, Urban Reconstruction, and Historic Preservation in the Soviet Union after World War Two (1943-1955).” 

Marina Dobronovskaya’s research focused on the post-war reconstruction of destroyed cities in the USSR—the largest state-planned reconstruction project of the twentieth century. The process and politics of this process were examined: how decisions were made, what was actually done, and the impact of reconstruction on contemporary society, especially on the professional development and philosophy of historic preservation. Marina's research contributes to fledgling efforts to protect historical heritage in Russia and in other areas of the world and will be relevant to ongoing international efforts to reconstruct historic sites destroyed by wars and natural disasters. Produced during her doctoral studies, Marina's book on historic preservation in Moscow—entitled Ob’ekt okhrany: Moskva. K 95-letiu obrazovania sistemy organov okhrany pamiatnikov. Documenty i svidetelstva [Object of Preservation: Moscow. Ninety-five years of historic preservation. The Moscow Historical Preservation Agency]—has thus far won two awards: The Moscow Mayor’s Award for the best book on historic preservation of the year (2012) and second prize, category Best publication on architecture and architects, Annual Moscow International Festival “Architecture” (2013). [Committee: Robert Warren (Urban Affairs and Public Policy), Ritchie Garrison (HIST), David Ames (CHAD), Karl Qualls (Dickinson), Bernie Herman (UNC, Chapel Hill).]

Amanda Norbutus (2012) on “New approaches for the preservation of outdoor public murals: The assessment of removable protective coatings for mural paintings and painted architectural surfaces.” 

Amanda Norbutus’s research evaluated the quality and performance of several coatings systems designed to protect outdoor murals from the chemical, mechanical, and physical stresses of everyday environmental exposure. Five solvent- and water-borne coatings systems were examined using Scanning Electron Microscopy, Fourier Transform-Infrared Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, and Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. Amanda worked with mural artists, civic leaders, arts advocates, mural arts commissions, and community leaders on the murals in Philadelphia and with Heritage Preservation’s Rescue Public Murals project. Amanda's first position after graduation was as the Mendel Science Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Villanova University, Villanova, PA. [Committee: Joyce Hill Stoner (ARTC), Joseph Weber (ARTC), Andrew Teplyakov (CHEM), Thomas Learner (Getty Conservation Institute), Richard Wolbers (ARTC).]

Christina Cole (2010) on “The Contextual Analysis of pre-1856 Eastern Woodlands Quillwork Dyes Through Identification by Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry.” 

Christina Cole's research focused on the scientific analysis of natural dyes on early Eastern Woodlands quillwork using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS), and X-ray fluorescence (XRF).  Her contributions include a nondestructive sampling technique for LC-MS, and a better understanding of Native North American dye technology from Contact to 1856.  Analysis of quillwork collections housed by three major North American ethnographic museums provided evidence of an uninterrupted material culture tradition based on indigenous North American dyes that is at odds with the sense of acculturation implied by the quillwork dye literature. Christina's first position after receiving her Ph.D. was a two-year Mellon Teaching Fellowship at the University of Delaware. [Committee: Vicki Cassman (ARTC), Jay Custer (ANTH), Bruno Pouliot (ARTC), Joseph Weber (ARTC), Suzanne Lomax (National Gallery of Art).] 

Ph.D. in Art Conservation Research

Susan Louise Buck (2003) on “The Aiken-Rhett House: A comparative architectural paint study.” [Susan Buck’s dissertation won the Sypherd prize for best dissertation in the humanities in 2003.]

Susan Buck’s architectural paint analysis work at the 1818 Aiken-Rhett House proved to be a powerful archaeological tool for dating original elements, as well as later alterations, using photographs of the reflected visible and ultraviolet light cross-sections for comparisons of the paint stratigraphies on all the representative elements. This analysis also established important relationships between the paints in the main house and the paints in the slave quarters of the kitchen/laundry building. It also developed a methodology for architectural paint analysis that could be applied to almost any type of architectural paint investigation, which is particularly relevant in a field that has no set standards for analysis work.

ElizaBeth Bede (2001) on “The Surface Morphology of Limestone and its Effects on Sulfur Dioxide Deposition.”

ElizaBeth Bede’s 2001 dissertation advances knowledge in architectural conservation science, both in the information presented in its conclusions and in significant methodological contributions. She studied the effects of pollutants on carbonate stone, especially on limestone types used in many historic structures in the United States, with the goal of being able to provide treatment guidelines. She conducted numerous laboratory experiments, and developed and tested new approaches to such experimental work. By using a wide variety of laboratory techniques and careful approach to experimental design and data analysis, she was able to draw many conclusions about how the effects of pollutants are controlled by issues such as surface roughness and pore networks of the stone, related to cleaning regimes. Due to the high quality of her research, her work was fully funded for her entire graduate career by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

E. Carl Grimm (1999) on “A Study of Authenticity in Paintings Attributed to Albert Pinkham Ryder.”

Albert Pinkham Ryder is one of the most forged American artists of all times. Carl Grimm’s dissertation constructed a systematic interdisciplinary approach combining procedures used in both art history and scientific analysis to discriminate between authentic and inauthentic works by Ryder. For each painting to be considered he demonstrated what should be the more expected characteristics with regard to provenance and history, subject matter, design, technique, color harmonies, physical structure, facture and patina, x-radiographic image, interlayer structure through cross-sectional analysis of paint samples, media diversity, and pigment analysis. The results confirmed and expanded discoveries in earlier published studies, and also highlighted three new discriminating features: a high incidence of Naples yellow in authentic works, a relative abundance of zinc white in the fakes, and a tendency of the authentic Ryders to test positive for the presence of saturated lipids in the media.​

​​Alumna Susan Lake's book based on her dissertation research was published in 2011 as the first in a new book series by the Getty Conservation Institute focusing on artist's materials and techniques.​

Susan Franz Cooperrider Lake (1999) on “The Relationship between Style and Technical Procedure: Willem de Kooning’s painting of the late 1940s and 1960s.”

Susan Lake’s dissertation on Willem de Kooning’s techniques is extremely important for both the understanding of the artist’s techniques that could readily be misinterpreted and changed by typical conservation procedures and for the care of some of these unique paint surfaces. De Kooning applied actual New York street dirt to his “Women” series of paintings in the 1940s to add to the gritty urban billboard-like impression of these works; conservators should be warned not to remove this grime thinking it is unwanted later accretion. For his nudes by the seashore of the Hamptons in the 1960s, he incorporated water and other unexpected substances into his paint media, perhaps in an attempt to capture the spumy appearance of the watery environment. Some of this pastoral but puckered paint continues to have drying problems four decades later; special Plexiglas boxes must be constructed if the paintings are sent to exhibitions, otherwise, the paint may stick to the protective glassine wrapping paper.

Carol Aiken (1998) on “A Context for the Advanced Studies of Portrait Miniatures Painted in Oil on Metal Supports.”

Carol Aiken’s 1998 Ph.D. dissertation was significant both for contributions to scholarship on the history of oil portrait miniatures and for contributions to methodology in technical art history. Aiken, a conservator, provided a model for how a conservator-scholar can take advantage of training and expertise in object examination to make unique, interdisciplinary contributions to art history and material culture studies. She combined in-depth archival research on primary sources with a systematic examination of objects under a binocular microscope to analyze 320 objects in Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Collection of 16th-18th century oil miniatures; her conclusions advance understanding of the history of miniature oil portraits and associated artistic practices, and provide practical information to guide conservators treating such objects.

B. D. Nandadeva (1998) on “Materials and Techniques of Kandyan and Southern Schools of Mural Paintings of Sri Lanka: mid-eighteenth to late-nineteenth centuries.”

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist temple wall paintings of the late-historical period that represent three stylistically different schools are considered to be one of the most important constituents of the cultural heritage of that country. Nandadeva’s 1998 dissertation on the characterization of materials and techniques of those paintings looked into whether the three schools also show technological differences between them, related the different degrees of deterioration to technological variations, and emphasized on the need for developing treatments that are specific to the material cum technological characteristics. He examined over 400 samples using optical microscopy, SEM, XRD, FTIR, EDX, TLC, and UV-visible spectroscopy. While confirming some of the information contained in a previous study, he reported for the first time the use of huntite, lead white, Prussian blue, lithopone, barium sulfate, gypsum, manganese blue, and the resinous character of a native binding medium, and distinguished flame carbon from soot. His dissertation is of immense value as a treatise on technical art history of Sri Lanka and is of utmost value to the conservator to understand the material cum technology-specific deterioration and determine appropriate treatment methodologies.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489