A key goal of the summer program is to improve diversity in the field
of conservation, Stoner said. According to research by the Andrew W.
Mellon Foundation, only 1.5 percent of cultural-heritage professionals
nationwide are African American.
“The field badly needs diversification,” Stoner said, adding that
museums with collections of African American art are particularly eager
to hire African American conservators.
By giving promising students a close-up view of conservation work,
the program hopes to pique their interest in a possible career in that
field or a related one.
“We’re trying to give them an overview of all the aspects of
conservation,” Stoner said. “It’s a field that many people have never
heard of, but the skills you learn are very useful. It’s widely
applicable if you give it a chance.”
Student Taryn Nurse, a Fisk University junior studying biology,
chemistry and art, said she’s learned from the program that conservation
in many ways “is perfect for me — you do chemistry and you do art.”
Until now, her career interests have been focused on medical
illustration, but she said she may reconsider.
In addition to the hands-on work at Winterthur, the students
conducted research, on the diorama’s materials and on its history, and
wrote and presented reports about their findings. Next, UD conservators
and students will complete the treatment of the diorama and prepare it
to be shipped safely back to Tuskegee.
About the diorama
Dioramas for the 1940 exposition in Chicago, which celebrated the
75th anniversary of the end of slavery in the U.S., were created by 70
African American artists, although very little is known about most of
The dioramas depict various scenes from throughout history of African
people and those of African descent, beginning in ancient Egypt and continuing through
World War I.
The diorama that was the focus of the students in Delaware is titled
“Arrival of the Slaves in Jamestown in 1619,” although recent research
indicates the arrival was in nearby Point Comfort (now Fort Monroe),
Virginia, not Jamestown.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Evan Krape