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News Student Blog: A world of preprogram experiences

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Daniella interning at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. 

Incoming WUDPAC Class of 2024 Fellow Daniella Briceño Villamil has spent her preprogram time at the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, at the Brooklyn Museum, and as part of the UCLA/Getty's Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation Program. From her recent blog post for UCLA/Getty:

Hi. I'm Daniella Briceño Villamil, and I grew up in both Colombia and the U.S.  I graduated from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, where I received my B.A. in studio art with a concentration in metal sculpture and drawing. My passion for art and material culture eventually led me to the field of conservation. But it was a circuitous path for me. I worked as a consultant in trade and international development, then as a freelancer before learning about and pursuing this profession.

I began my pre-program phase by taking the necessary pre-requisite classes and I had my first experience with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden treating time-based media artworks and outdoor sculpture as a funded Andrew W. Mellon Foundation - Conservation Intern for Broadening Access. I was then invited to participate in the UCLA/Getty - Mellon Diversity in Conservation workshop which, aside from formally introducing me to conservation and its different analysis techniques, left a strong impression on me. It exposed me to different questions regarding cultural materials and specially grounded me in the importance of working with the communities to whom such materials belong. It shaped my thinking of what it means to interact with material culture.

​Daniella interning at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. 

​I believe when we are bringing our own personal experience into the work of conservation we are generating immense value to the field of conservation. Whether we realize it or not, we all bring strong ties to history from our own backgrounds. How we care for, contextualize, and interpret cultural objects informs and creates a more accurate historical record. I think this is the aspect of conservation that most drew me to it. Aside from being a field that combines my personal interests, it is also one that honors the human story. To be a conservator is to be uniquely positioned in the ethical decision-making of how we access and cherish culture. It is for this reason that I think it is an imperative to have diverse and inclusive representation within the conservation field and why I want to be part of it.

Discovering conservation a few years after having graduated and entering the work force, thus being an older pre-program student, certainly had its challenges. Mainly, my situation made it impossible to accept unpaid internship work. Because it meant choosing less financially secure opportunities I accompanied my prerequisite training and courses for admittance into a graduate program by working part-time for a little over two years. I still needed to rely on savings despite working and having support from the programs. 

​Daniella interning at the Brooklyn Museum.

At times this was overwhelming. It's hard to juggle jobs and at the same time be proactive and looking forward and applying for the next thing. But at least in this aspect, I have been fortunate to participate in programs such as the UCLA/Getty - Mellon Opportunity (workshop and internship) which provided me with a stipend that helped offset costs. I don't think I would have pursued a career within the field if it were not for these programs. Not to say it does not continue to be difficult.

In my view, this is the main barrier to pursuing an advanced degree within this field. It seems to assume that you have a certain disposable income, or financial support, to complement the required courses and that you can volunteer to gain the experiences necessary before entering a program and becoming a professional. If we want to see more people exploring conservation and committing to it, all internship work should be paid. Not everyone is in a position where they can reject an income and choose to pursue one's passion.

Prior to the recent application process for graduate school, I took part in theUCLA/Getty - Mellon Diversity in Conservation Internship, training in objects with the Brooklyn Museum this past fall. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have worked during this time of uncertainty. I had the most wonderful mentors and the conservation team at the Brooklyn Museum encouraged and challenged me.At the same time, I have continued working on my prerequisites classes (which had been postponed last year due to the pandemic) and I will be completing these in May.I am happy to share that I will be starting my graduate education this fall with the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). It feels like starting a new chapter in my conservation journey and the culmination of my pre-program effort.

I am beyond excited for what's next. I am also very thankful for all the support I have received from the UCLA/Getty - Mellon Diversity in Conservation and my mentors!

To learn more about the Andrew W. Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation program, visit the program website at https://mellondiversityconservation.org.

Daniella in the sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn Museum (left), at the Brooklyn Museum (center), and at the Mellon Opportunity for Diversity Workshop 2019 (right).

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Incoming WUDPAC Class of 2024 Fellow Daniella Briceño Villamil has spent her preprogram time at the Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum, and as part of the UCLA/Getty’s Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation Program.

Incoming WUDPAC Class of 2024 Fellow Daniella Briceño Villamil has spent her preprogram time at the Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum, and as part of the UCLA/Getty’s Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation Program.

4/28/2021
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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