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News Undergraduates Present their Work in the Vicki Cassman Symposium

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Archaeological ceramics. Pile rugs. Thai panel paintings. Cochineal dye. A miniature flag. Photoshop. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. While these topics may seem distantly related even within the broad field of art conservation, they were all addressed in the talks presented at the first Annual Vicki Cassman Undergraduate Symposium held at the Winterthur Museum on February 6th.

Over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour symposium, seven students from the undergraduate program in Art Conservation, including five seniors, one junior, and one sophomore, presented on research and treatments they have completed either as part of conservation internships or independent study.

The symposium was divided into two major topics: Research and Preventive & Treatment. Even within these categories, the talks were diverse and compelling. During the former session, Senior AnnaLivia McCarthy updated viewers on her ongoing research on the history of treating pile rugs. Seniors Rachel Dunscomb and Emma Heath, both double majors in Chemistry, shared their complex research topics: the structure of dyes and lakes and the interactions between copper and organic materials respectively.

The treatment section of the symposium not only allowed students to show exciting before and after treatment images, such as those Sydney Cole showed of a Thai panel painting before and after inpainting. It also provided an open forum for the presenters to share lessons learned during their treatment experiences. Vivien Barnet discussed the pressure mounting technique she used to preserve the many fragments of a miniature American flag, while Hannah Blank provided tips and tricks on how to digitally “restore” photographs. As the final presenter of the event, I shared the numerous lessons that I learned about the value of collaboration and inclusion within conservation labs, while partaking in the Arizona State Museum Pottery Blitz in the summer of 2018.  

It was wonderful, as undergraduate students, to have the opportunity to share treatment and research experience within a formal setting. That is rarely available to undergraduates of any major. Our hard work was rewarded and our confidence bolstered by the positive reactions of the many WUDPAC Fellows and faculty in the audience, as well as the HUNDREDS of people who watched the event via Facebook Live. While the symposium was successful in highlighting the exciting and varied work of the undergraduate students within the Art Conservation program, many of whom are double majors, it also highlighted the incredible impact of Vicki Cassman.

The symposium was named in Vicki’s honor due to the amazing impression she has had as a mentor and advisor to undergraduate students formerly and currently within the program. I can say personally, and I believe that many of my fellow presenters would agree, that without Vicki, my conservation experiences up to this point would have been very limited, and many of us would never have had the opportunities that we discussed. (More information about Vicki's work can be found here.) Thank you to Vicki for inspiring us to seek exciting internships and research and emboldening us to present them in an academic setting. Thank you to everyone who came or watched online, and we look forward to your attendance again next year. (You can watch this year's event here.)

—Annabelle Fichtner, University of Delaware BA 2019

​Left: Dr. Vicki Cassman and students practice packing techniques for the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as “Lucy.” Right: Dr. Dilia Lopez- Gydosh (far right), Director of UD's Historic Textile and Costume Collection, consults on an undergraduate project.

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​At the inaugural symposium honoring Vicki Cassman, undergraduate students from UD's art conservation program presented diverse and compelling talks on their research, preventive conservation, and treatment projects.

​At the inaugural symposium honoring Vicki Cassman, undergraduate students from UD's art conservation program presented diverse and compelling talks on their research, preventive conservation, and treatment projects.

2/18/2019
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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