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News Preserving dioramas of African American history

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Left: TIP-C students cleaning the Matthew Henson diorama in June of 2018 with their supervisor; from top: Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner (University of Delaware), Telvin Wallace (North Carolina Central University), Kei Takahashi (Texas Southern University), Meaghan Hall (Fisk University). Image courtesy of Evan Krape. Center: TIP-C students in June of 2018 with their supervisors discussing an oil painting by Jimmie Mosely; from left: Amanda Kasman (University of Delaware), Kiera Hammond (Howard University), Chanise Epps (Texas Southern University), Meaghan Hall (Fisk University), Kei Takahashi (Texas Southern University), Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner (University of Delaware), and Telvin Wallace (North Carolina Central University). Image courtesy of Evan Krape. Right: Telvin Wallace (North Carolina Central University) applying consolidate to lifting paint flakes in the water-damaged Jimmie Mosely painting depicting the Korean War. Image courtesy of Evan Krape. 

​On August 30, CBS Sunday Morning featured a segment on the conservation treatment of dioramas at the Legacy Museum, Tuskegee University, part of the Two-week Introduction to Practical Conservation at the University of Delaware.

This summer program of study, in collaboration with the HBCU Alliance of Museums and Galleries, Yale University, and more recently, New York University Institute for Fine Arts, has completed year four, offered virtually in June/July 2020. Generous financial support for this program has been received from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, University of Delaware, and private donors. 

Our Two-week Introduction to Practical Conservation (TIP-C) program of study has focused on the examination and preservation of four dioramas from the Legacy Museum, Tuskegee University. These mixed media (largely plaster and painted wood) fragile dioramas were part of a series of 33 made in 1940 under the supervision of African American artist Charles Dawson. Seventy artists and craftspeople participated over a period of only three months to mount the landmark 1940 "American Negro Exposition" in Chicago. Dawson transported 20 of the original 33 to Tuskegee by 1945 and carried out early attempts at restoration. Many dioramas have deteriorated, requiring in-depth examination, stabilization treatment, and preventive care.  One project goal is to conserve all of twenty dioramas so that they may be exhibited together again while involving professional and aspiring African American art conservators as much as possible. To date, six of the dioramas have been treated: three by UD, and one each by Fisk University, Buffalo State, and the Lunder Center of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

From the CBS YouTube page: "In 1940, at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago (marking the 75th anniversary of Emancipation), evocative dioramas were created to celebrate the often-unacknowledged achievements of African Americans. Today, conservators, including African American students, are restoring these dioramas, bringing their magical artistry, and history, back to life."

To view the CBS Sunday Morning segment on YouTube, click here. To view the CBS Sunday Morning feature page, click here. To learn more about the TIP-C program, visit the ARTC program page here.

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CBS Sunday Morning featured a segment on the conservation of dioramas at Tuskegee University, part of UD's collaboration with the HBCU Alliance.

CBS Sunday Morning featured a segment on the conservation of dioramas at Tuskegee University, part of UD's collaboration with the HBCU Alliance.

8/30/2020
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu