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Shelley M. Smith

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began September 2015

Shelley M. Smith has worked as an objects conservator for over 13 years in institutions including the Field Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt, the Menil Collection, the Judd Foundation, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Intermuseum Conservation Association in Cleveland, the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Vancouver, and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. Her conservation experience has included large-scale outdoor sculpture, indigenous and archaeological objects, decorative arts, furniture, and modern and contemporary sculpture. Shelley holds a BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing from the Alberta College of Art and Design and in 2003 graduated from Queen’s University in Canada with a Master's Degree in Art Conservation.  She completed post-graduate fellowships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM), and The Getty Museum. She has taken an XRF boot camp at the Getty in order to compare interior and exterior bronze surfaces and to quantify the different between castings from different foundries; she has also worked with Marc Walton of NU-ACCESS and a study of bronze alloy composition in modern art. Shelley is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.  She has published and/or lectured on treatment of works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and John Chamberlain. Shelley will be presenting a paper at the 9th interim meeting of the ICOM-CC Metals Working Group​ on the use of 3D scanning and printing technology to restore a sculpture by Malvina Hoffman.

Current advisors: Karen Rosenberg (ANTH), Julie McGee (BAMS), Wendy Bellion (ARTH), Roberta Tarbell (ARTC and ARTH), Robert Opila (MSEG), and Rosie Grayburn (SRAL, ARTC). Shelley was recently awarded a library research scholarship by the Getty Foundation, to conduct research using the Getty's Malvina Hoffman archive. Shelley was the recipient of an American Institute for Conservation FAIC George Stout Grant for attending ICOM Metal 2016 in New Delhi, India, and a Library Research Grant at the Getty Research Institute to access their Malvina Hoffman archive, and was recently awarded a Summer Doctoral Fellowship from the Office of Graduate and Professional Education.

TOPIC: Malvina Hoffman: ​The Intersection of Visual Ethnography, Art, and Art Conservation​

I am performing an interdisciplinary conservation research project to study the sculpture of American artist Malvina Hoffman. My aim is to promote the preservation of her work through an informed understanding of her artistic techniques and methods and to contribute to a wider awareness of Hoffman’s artistic legacy through object-based cross-disciplinary research.  Because there is very little recent scholarly work on Hoffman an additional range of specialties will be needed to contend with conceptual and ethical interpretations of works embodying issues of race in Western art. 

Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) was an American sculptor and writer whose professional career as an artist spanned over 60 years.  She specialized in creating intimate portraits of human subjects in plaster, stone, and cast bronze and in the creation of monumental sculpture.  It was her reputation and skill as a portraitist that brought her to the attention of Stanley Field, the Director of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. He commissioned her to create life-size figures depicting different racial types for their planned Anthropology exhibit hall dedicated to the Races of Mankind, for the 1933 World’s Fair.  This monumental commission was executed in a five-year period for which Hoffman completed 104 sculptures in bronze.  Her research for the subjects involved a seven-month international expedition with her husband Samuel B. Grimson, who served as photographer and documented their voyage in thousands of photographs.

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