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Diversity Initiatives

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Debra Hess Norris examines a photograph with a visiting scholar from Egypt during the photographic materials block (Image Credit Evan Krape).


The University of Delaware 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. 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 (see related page on this website). 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, Garden & Library. (This program won a Governor's award in 2012). 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. We offer lectures and behind-the-scene tours to UD and visiting McNair Scholars, Young African Leaders, MEPPI participants, Iraqi Fulbright scholars, and others.

During 2005-2009, the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) 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 photograph preservation training institute for 20 HCBU undergraduates in June 2013. A $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. 

In 2017, WUDPAC and the HBCU Library Alliance began planning for a summer internship program which would introduce undergraduate students to careers in library preservation and conservation. The HBCU Library Preservation Internship Program launched a pilot in the summer of 2018, thanks to generous funding from the Kress Foundation, the Peck-Stacpoole Foundation, and the University of Delaware. A competitive application process placed six undergraduate students at six different, nationally recognized, library conservation labs for an eight-week, paid summer internship (see here).

In the summers of 2017-2019, WUDPAC again collaborated with the HBCU Art Alliance to promote careers in practical art conservation among emerging African American college graduates through the Two-Week Introduction to Practical Conservation (TIP-C). Peer-support networks have been created between the students and professional conservators and the network of Emerging Conservation Professionals (ECPN) to further foster the students' interest in the care of collections of African American cultural heritage at their own institutions and to help them prepare for graduate programs. Approximately half the HBCU students who participated in summer workshops have been successfully recruited into additional internships related to art conservation.

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 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. We are pleased to collaborate or partner as needed.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489