Engaging in meaningful work that advances our profession and contributes to the growth of conservation research and practice at Winterthur and the University of Delaware as well as nationally and internationally is a priority for faculty and students in the WUDPAC program as well as the two institutions that sponsor the program. Our work is focused on the engagement of public and scholarly audiences alike.
Our third-year students are encouraged to fully engage in the work of their host institutions, as well as find ways to connect with the wider conservation community. Two current examples are:
Jennifer Myers, who is a fellow at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is also preparing to participate in a Study Day dedicated to Robert Rauschenberg's Black Paintings (early 1950s) that will be held in February 2020 in New York City. This meeting of conservators, curators, art historians, artists, and others seeks to share information about these paintings and inspire conversation concerning the materials, process, and context of these works within his oeuvre. Jennifer will share her research and technical analysis of Rauschenberg's ca. 1951 Untitled (Night Blooming) painting as a participant and presenter.
Melissa King (NEH Fellow), who is currently a fellow at the Museum Conservation Institute of the Smithsonian Institution, was instrumental in connecting people who eventually gathered at Winterthur for the two-day Getty Conservation Institute sponsored meeting, Tools for Temperature and Humidity Analysis in Collection Care. This meeting brought together conservation scientists, data scientists, architect, engineers, and conservators from the US and Europe. The goal was to share details of tools currently in development in various institutions and combine efforts to make these tools accessible to collection care professionals with a wide range of expertise and needs.
Our new series offering tips on Caring for Family Treasures for our UD community and beyond has been widely distributed. These e-blasts are written primarily by our students and published weekly. As noted in our premise: While those of us in the conservation department are working from home, we are finding comfort in our family heirlooms and treasures—many of which require our attention… While we all turn to our family treasures during these trying times, the conservation department would like to share tips on ways to care for your personal collections. We have shared these posts with alums, friends, donors, high-school counselors and teachers, colleagues, and other groups, and posted links to the series on our social media. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Future topics will include family documents, primary school artwork, quilts and coverlets, wedding gowns, silver, glassware, paintings, and more. This series will continue throughout the summer and cover a variety of items and materials; published posts are listed below:
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Caring for Family Treasures
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 2: Family Albums
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 3: Works on Paper
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 4: Library Collections
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 5: Pests and Preventive Conservation
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 6: Water Emergencies and Salvage
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 7: Rugs and Carpets
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 8: Upholstery
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 9: Small Needleworks
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 10: Quilts and Bedspreads
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 11: Clothing
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 12: Ceramics
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 13: Basketry
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 14: Glassware
Attics and Basements and Closets, Oh My! Part 15: Metal Jewelry
Undergraduate service activities have included a variety of projects at the local, national and international levels. The students have worked with the Newark Historical Society to take on collections care and the creation of policy, aided the Newark African American Community to create a walking tour, helped the Engineering Department at UD with the treatment of a terracotta wall with salt issues, conserved medieval manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum, conserved a dollhouse for Winterthur Museum and restored artifacts in Lisbon for a new sports museum. Currently, students are providing STEAM activities for the Wilmington Salvation Army Daycare Center. These are only a few of the many examples of service activities they have undertaken.
Since 2004, 129 students have graduated from the undergraduate art conservation program, or an average of 12 students per year. To date, the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation has trained 364 professional conservators in the examination, analysis, treatment, and stabilization of art and artifacts, as well as the general principles of collections' care. WUDPAC alumni are the advocates for respected art and artifacts housed in collections across the country and around the world. Program graduates have been responsible for the preservation of such irreplaceable objects as the Declaration of Independence, multiple drafts of the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Star-Spangled Banner, the Liberty Bell, the Treaty of Paris, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the world's first photograph, and works of art from Old Masters to contemporary artists—from Rembrandt and Rubens to Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, and Warhol. In the last decade, 16 of our graduates have been honored with Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards from UD, including induction in the UD Alumni Wall of Fame, and special awards presented by the American Institute for Conservation for distinguished accomplishment.
Our graduates are also responsible for public advocacy, nationwide disaster response and recovery efforts, revisions to professional guidelines and codes of ethics, and current work toward the development and implementation of professional certification. Whether they work in private practice, collaborate with small community museums and archives, or work as team members at institutions, WUDPAC alumni help to minimize risk and deterioration to cultural heritage, while ensuring and maximizing these objects' long-term benefits to society. Our graduates have worked to guarantee the continued availability of these collections for interpretation, scholarship, and enrichment for present and future generations. Their contributions have helped small Alaskan institutions safeguard important collections by identifying mystery "white residues" through social media, including the blog "What's that White Stuff - Caring for Alaskan Artifacts", preserve the legacy of a historically African American community in Newark, DE, and conserve important art collections in museums across the nation.
As conservation educators we will continue to empower our students to deploy their skills and knowledge to promote wellbeing and understanding, to help care for family treasures, and to reach out to those in need. Working together—with Winterthur and the University of Delaware, the Society of Winterthur Fellows, artists, scientists, art historians, and others—we will chart a path forward, one that leverages our work in the preservation of cultural heritage—from iconic works of art to historic manuscripts and cherished photographs—to foster joy, strengthen our resiliency, and connect us via digital storytelling and online exchange in powerful ways. Our commitment to public service is clear and a cornerstone of our education and training at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our commitment to producing preservation ambassadors is accomplished through continued support for travel and scholarship and on-the-job public outreach and advocacy training.
You can follow the work of our students, alums and faculty at:
Instagram: @ud_artconservation www.instagram.com/ud_artconservation
Facebook: "University of Delaware Art Conservation Programs" www.facebook.com/udartcons
Twitter: @UD_ArtCons Twitter.com/UD_ArtCons
UD website: www.artcons.udel.edu