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Research

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Senior Bellie Fichtner and members of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware examine fishing nets at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s Cultural Resource Centre.

We are proud of the number of senior theses that are produced each year. May 15th of junior year, students submit a proposal to the Undergraduate Research Office. They are guided by a first and second reader. A third reader is assigned by the Research Office. By April of senior year a draft thesis must be distributed to the committee and an oral defense is arranged. 

Here are links to recent theses housed in the Institutional Repository of the Library:

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Amanda Kasman (2018): Conservation of Landing of Slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619 Diorama: The Legacy of An African American Emancipation Exposition

Readers of this analysis likely associate dioramas with middle school book reports and taxidermy-filled natural history museums; therefore, the diorama medium may seem to be an odd choice with which to uplift the perception of Africans Americans. However, the subject of this study, The Landing of Slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619, one of a series of twenty dioramas made for the American Negro Exposition of 1940 in Chicago, followed in a long tradition of esteemed diorama production and contributed to two parallel trends that swept the western hemisphere: World Fair Mania and Diorama Fever. This surviving diorama also serves as a testament to a pivotal moment in the history of African American civil rights, when the race leaders Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois were vying for influence, before the emergence of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. The purpose of my thesis research is two-fold: to preserve the psychological and the physical legacy of the American Negro Exposition dioramas. I endeavor to accomplish this task by investigating the sociopolitical climate leading up the to the creation of the dioramas, providing evidence of the positive outcomes generated by the dioramas immediately following the Exposition, and explaining the diversity initiative presently surrounding the diorama series that aims to carry forward the aspirations of Washington and DuBois to benefit future generations of African Americans. Lastly, I will present my own contribution to the legacy of the American Negro Exposition dioramas: the conservation of diorama Number 11. The Landing of Slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619. This thesis is comprised of eight chapters that attempt to integrate into a singular narrative the historical research, chemical analysis, and art conservation treatment that I performed surrounding the Landing of Slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619 diorama. The first chapter expounds the competing ideologies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois that dually defined and muddled early attempts by African Americans to obtain equal rights. The second chapter focuses on the organization of the American Negro Exposition and its immediate outcomes, with particular attention paid to the twenty-diorama series. Chapter 3 highlights the decisive moment when twenty of the American Negro Exposition dioramas were gifted to Tuskegee Institute and restored rather than being discarded. Chapter 4 describes the condition of the Landing of Slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619 diorama before treatment. Chapter 5 examines the aesthetic choices and possible symbolism underlying the depiction of the historical subject. Chapter 6 reports the results of chemical analysis performed on the diorama’s construction materials and paints. Chapter 7 describes the art conservation techniques that I performed to return the diorama to a presentable state in preparation for its exhibition at the Tuskegee Legacy Museum in the Fall of 2018, and Chapter 8 presents closing remarks. The aforementioned topics evidence the psychological and physical legacy of the American Negro Exposition dioramas in the past, present, and future. This thesis can be considered in two halves; the first, consisting of Chapters 1–3, focuses on the psychological legacy of the dioramas in the past, while the second half, consisting of Chapters 4–7, documents the physical legacy in the present and moving forward.

 

Claire Martin (2018): The ABC's of Carton Moore-Park

This thesis attempts to compile what is known about the life and works of the Scottish artist Carton Moore-Park (1876-1956), an artist lost to time with a large and relatively unknown body of work including illustrations for children’s books, portrait paintings, and prints. This is an exploration of the development of Moore-Park’s career beginning with his start as a freelance newspaper illustrator and following up until the end of his career in the late 1930s. His personal life and relations are also included. His first book An Alphabet of Animals, published in 1899, is represented in the Mark Samuels Lasner collection in the University of Delaware Library along with original prints and sketches for the book. These materials were conserved and acted as a starting point for research into Moore-Park’s career. Moore-Park’s style of illustration and painting are also compared to other artists and schools of this period, especially for those who specialized in animal portraiture.

 

Taylor Pearlstein (2018): The Preservation of Memory: Archiving and Assessing The Mission To Protect Cultural Heritage In The Middle East

In 2008, the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) was established in Erbil, Iraq as part of the US State Department’s Iraq Cultural Heritage Program (ICHP). The institute would bring together the US State Department, the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and various international institutions and experts. The goal was to provide Iraqi professionals with long-term theoretical and practical training in conservation and historic preservation. Years of war and sanctions had left the Iraq cultural heritage sector unable to actively engage with the international preservation community and with limited access to resources. Over the past ten years, the IICAH has become a unique model for providing conservation training in post-conflict areas. This paper discusses the history of the institute and the political climate leading up to its creation. Oral history interviews were conducted with individuals involved with the IICAH in varying capacities including advisors, instructors, and students. Their responses are discussed to better understand the work of the IICAH including their initial priorities, obstacles they faced, successes, the students and organizations they worked with, daily life at the institute, their thoughts on the future of the institute, and advice. Major themes from these interviews are analyzed in greater detail in the discussion of this paper including operating the institute, funding, connecting with local stakeholders, student growth, coursework, and sustainability. An archive was also created for the interview files and additional archival documents. The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage Archive can be found with the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center archives. This research sought to begin to understand the key features of the IICAH that have allowed it to continue over these past ten years and to create the archive as a resource to future cultural heritage professionals who may look to the IICAH as a model for long-term, international conservation education.

 

David Brickhouse (2016): Tin Imitating Textile: A Study of the Applied Brocade Technique Using Technical Reconstructions

The purpose of this research is to investigate the historical materials and techniques used in the production of the applied tin relief decorations found on three panel paintings in the collection of the Walters Art Museum. The paintings were created in Venice in 1460-1470 by the Master of the Stories of Helen and depict three scenes in the life of Helen of Troy. Applied brocade (or presbrokat in German) is a decorative relief technique used for imitating brocade textiles on Renaissance paintings and polychrome sculptures. Through visual examination, technical analysis, and historic materials research, it is possible to reconstruct the recipes and methods used to produce the applied brocades found on the Helen of Troy paintings. My goal for this research is to reconstruct a section of the presbrokat found on the Helen of Troy paintings, in order to better understand the materials and methods used in their production. Reconstructions were created using possible, historical recipes. These were then compared with the original applied brocades using visual and technical analysis. The final reconstruction will be created using the recipe that most closely conforms to the physical qualities and analysis of the original paintings. I found that the applied brocades were adhered to a gesso painting ground and that the tin reliefs were cast with an oil-based fill material. The applied brocade reliefs were not gilded with precious metal leaves but were likely highlighted with egg tempera paint. An interlayer of glair may have been necessary to allow for an even application and to prevent the tempera from beading up on the tin foil surface. Chalkglue ground on panel molds were used for casting these reconstructions but other mold materials may also have been used to make the Helen of Troy applied brocades. Research will continue after the completion of this thesis in order to investigate other mold materials, determine the original thickness of the tin foil used, and discover other paints and varnishes that could have been used for highlighting the Helen of Troy applied brocades.

 

Juliana Ly (2015): The Development of a Mold and Cast Technique for Infilling on Varnished Chinese Export Laquerware

China always captures newspaper headlines during discussions of economic growth and competition with the United States; however, much is forgotten about trade between China and the United States, which began as early as the 18th century. The results of luxury export trade can still be seen through current patterns of consumption, the growth of the United States economy, and revived interest in Chinese designs still evident in European and American homes. During research conducted during the summer of 2014, the conservation treatment of a Chinese export lacquerware shawl box, 1964.0084D, from the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate collection, was performed. The shawl box was studied as a lens to understand the monumental impact Chinese export had on developing trading ports across America, specifically focusing on Salem, Massachusetts. Chemical analyses by means of pyrolysis gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (py-GC/MS), ultra-violet (UV) auto-fluorescence, and chemical staining were conducted, in order to accurately assess the current condition of the object and develop an appropriate conservation treatment plan. However, during treatment, water was used to work with the infilling material as well as, to treat and conserve the object. This thesis aims at developing a mold and cast system in order to completely eliminate the use of water during the conservation of varnished Chinese export lacquerware as well as, reduce the amount of time an object is handled during treatment. For the purposes of this study, a varnished Chinese export lacquerware screen, 2004.0030.002, in the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate collection was used to carry out testing.

 

Kelsey Wingel (2014): Studies in American Tonalist Painting: The Materials and Techniques of Robert Crannell Minor's Souvenir of Italy

This paper examines the art-historical significance, materials, and painting techniques of American landscape artist Robert Crannell Minor (1839-1904), focusing on his oil on millboard painting entitled Souvenir of Italy, a donation to the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). Visual analysis of his paintings focuses on his aesthetic goals within the context of the French Barbizon School as well as within the American landscape tradition during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This paper explores the development of Minor’s style and iconography throughout his artistic career and the stylistic influences of Souvenir of Italy are examined within the context of the Barbizon and Tonalist Schools. Minor’s materials and painting technique are compared to those of Corot and Díaz, whose paintings influenced Minor’s works. Minor’s materials in Souvenir of Italy have been analyzed through the techniques of X-ray fluorescence (XRF), Infrared reflectography (IRR), X-radiography, Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and cross-sectional analysis. Minor’s materials and painting technique contribute to the present condition and possible future degradation of his paintings. This study has informed the treatment of Souvenir of Italy and helped in an understanding of how the appearance of the painting has altered.


Formatting tutorial for your thesis

Senior Thesis Handbook

Application due May 15th of Junior year​

Undergraduate Research Program

Library Resources 


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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