The UD Art Conservation Department is dedicated to increasing diversity and bringing parity within the field. We are committed to the university’s diversity goals—indeed those are our own—by actively participating as an integrated member of the Newark academic community in order to stimulate and foster a scholarly environment predicated on inclusion and equality. Most recently, our department worked closely with the New London African-American Newark community members to document their history via the development of a walking tour and podcasts now posted on our website, and we are working on a new project to make this connection sustainable. This open dialogue with university, local, and, state communities emphasizes our preservation education programs’ commitment to diversity initiatives including ethnic, gender, socio-economic, and cultural underrepresentation.
During 2005- 09, our department was a central collaborator in the Arts and Humanities Summer Institute (AHSI), a four-week program that brought historically underrepresented undergraduates to campus in order to experience the frenetic and stimulating graduate intellectual communities on campus. Here we offered an Art Conservation curriculum that introduced participants to cultural heritage preservation issues and the various paths to achieving careers related to the conservation of art, artifacts, and material culture. Upon completion of AHSI, students received continued mentoring to help achieve their goals of a graduate education in cultural heritage preservation.
The Art Conservation Department is a committed partner in the improved preservation of photographic collections at 18 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU), engaging WUDPAC students as well as those from other US conservation graduate programs. Following an initial $1.4 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2010, a consortium of nonprofit library and conservation associations, UD, Image Permanence Institute, Lyrasis, The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, and the HCBU Library Alliance, has implemented programs to support these preservation efforts. As part of this and subsequent awards, our department hosted a week-long photograph preservation training institute for 20 HCBU undergraduates in June 2013. A recent $750,000 grant continued this initiative and brought HBCU undergrads to campus for similar training in June 2015. Providing a unique opportunity for exposure in the field this workshop is a natural extension of our efforts to encourage the employment of HCBU students by their home institutions and, more importantly, to inspire them to pursue careers in conservation, library science, and allied fields. UD faculty continue to mentor these undergraduates as they seek conservation experience and complete pre-program academic requirements for graduate study.
Simultaneously we have offered lectures and behind-the-scene tours to UD and visiting McNair Scholars, Young African Leaders, MEPPI participants, Iraqi Fulbright scholars, and others. We are pleased to collaborate or partner as needed. Also we have brought educational activities related to art conservation to children (K-12) in urban center parks and the Salvation Army each summer in an undergraduate service learning project in cooperation with Winterthur Museum. The program has been a resounding success and won a Governor’s award in 2012.
WUDPAC continues to seek, implement and support opportunities to engage in community-level dialogues designed to deepen mutual understandings of the value of cultural heritage preservation and the obstacles that may be encountered by future conservators-in-training. We are leading (with other partners, including International Global Studies), a photograph preservation initiative for collection repositories in Sub-Sahara Africa that started with the School of African Heritage in Benin in April 2014.
Recent treatment projects have been chosen that feature African American artists or subjects. We are currently treating a painting by Humbert Howard, part of a mural by John Biggers, and another mural for which African American artist Ed Loper posed. We treated an Aaron Douglas mural in downtown Wilmington over the summer of 2011. We are currently working with the Christina Cultural Arts Center Inc., on a program to introduce inner-city youth to various careers. We will continue to promote diversity in both our student population and in cultural areas of study and will work closely with the President’s Diversity Initiative. This is a primary and essential goal.