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Olivia Jaeger (UD 2020) had the opportunity to participate in the WUDPAC Photograph Conservation Block to gain in-depth insight into the history and conservation of photographs alongside master’s students (Image credit: Evan Krape, University of Delaware).
1. How many professional conservators are full-time faculty
and teach in the undergraduate program?
conservators are your most important mentors to prepare you for the competitive
nature of art conservation graduate programs. They help you connect the
dots between art, material culture, and science. Professional conservation
faculty are here to help you network within the field and provide hands-on
learning experiences. There are 4 fulltime conservation faculty members on-site
at the University of Delaware. Additionally,14 affiliated art conservation
faculty members, associated primarily with the graduate program, often provide internships
and courses for undergraduate students. Undergraduates at UD have an
average of 6 courses with professional conservators throughout the course of their
studies. The UD Art Conservation Program is unique in providing this level
of mentoring and personalized learning.
2. Does the program provide all the required courses
needed for applying for conservation graduate programs?
Because US conservation graduate programs have
prerequisites, be sure that the undergraduate program you select provides all
of these. For example, entry into the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art
undergraduate curriculum provides all of these courses and more!
3. Does the program offer in-house and outside
internships with professional conservators?
UD offers several in-house conservation internships each semester. Additionally, students receive help finding outside internships. UD’s winter session affords a great opportunity to study abroad or hold an outside internship. Our students have interned in many institutions across the United States and around the world, including at Winterthur Museum, with Roberto Nardi (Centro di Conservazione Archeologica) on Roman mosaics in Italy, and with Dr. Caitlin O’Grady (University College London) at Kaymakçı Archaeological Project, an archaeological site in Turkey, to name a few. See
our list of recent internships.
4. Can you double major or minor in related areas?
Conservation is by
nature an interdisciplinary field. At UD we encourage art conservation students
to double major, often in art history, anthropology, or chemistry, and select
from a variety of minors too. This provides students breadth, giving them
the opportunity to explore related interests while combining technical
conservation with soft skills, maximizing the time they spend at UD.
Examples of minors commonly chosen by art conservation
Africana studies, anthropology, art history, Asian studies, chemistry, fashion history, fine art, global studies, history, the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, interactive media, Islamic studies, languages, Latin American studies, material culture studies, materials science, museum studies, public policy, and wildlife conservation.
training takes a village! At UD we have the most well-developed village—after
all we have been training pre-program art conservation students since
1971! A third of our students go on for conservation-related graduate
training. Even if they choose not to continue in conservation, most stay
in museum-related fields, bringing a deep understanding of conservation
processes and ethics to all they do!
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We shared some of the most frequently asked questions with our faculty, and here are their responses:
I think the #1 thing that sets the UD undergraduate program apart is that it's fully run and taught by art conservators. ALL of our faculty are conservators and we represent a range of specialties within the field: Objects, Paintings, Photography, Preventive, and Conservation Science. You'll have a full program of conservation courses that will ground you in preventive principle and the hand skills you'll need to be successful as a professional.
Our majors don't usually switch after the first year. We do have some students who come in as art conservation majors and decide that they'd rather be in a different field, but I can't think of someone who has left the program after that initial phase. Even those are not common.
About 35% go on to graduate training in conservation, whether that's at WUDPAC or at a different graduate program. Usually, by the time you graduate, you've gotten a pretty good idea if you want to become a professional conservator or work in an allied field. Many of our undergraduates discover that they are better suited towards or interested in becoming archivists, librarians, art historians, historians, anthropologists, conservation scientists, registrars, collections managers, researchers, historic preservationists, etc. The beauty of the undergraduate program is that you are pretty well positioned to branch into any other museum role or even choose something altogether different. With a traditional arts and sciences degree, you'll have courses and exposure to many different subject areas beyond conservation.
Our undergraduate program does not qualify someone to be an art conservator on graduation. The terminal degree in our profession is a masters. Most of our students have something lined up after graduating. The pandemic has made this past year difficult, but this has started to turn around again. Usually, our students interested in continuing on in conservation will find work as a technician or advanced internships or the like. Sometimes this means putting a few different opportunities together.
It depends on the student. We have some students who love chemistry and double major, we have some students who are "allergic" to chemistry, and everything in between. What's interesting is that sometimes art students actually do better in organic chemistry than in general chemistry because of the spatial relationships that are studied. Organic chemistry has a bad reputation. It is challenging and it does need your full attention and effort to be successful, but once you can wrap your head around the underlying concepts, things click into place. There are study groups and a variety of tutoring resources on campus. Our conservation students taking chemistry together usually find each other and work together. It's less of a formal structure but one of peer support. We don't notice this to be a major roadblock for most of our students.