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Laura Sankary treats a Meissen porcelain plate during the Fall of 2020 in a ceramics conservation internship at the University of Delaware (Image Credit: Madeline Hagerman, University of Delaware).
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It may seem odd to look at graduate programs at the beginning of your undergraduate career, but it is essential to clarify the goals and prerequisites for the highly competitive graduate conservation programs. An undergraduate degree in art conservation gives you the qualifications to work as a conservation technician or assistant collections care position, but to be a professional conservator, a graduate degree is necessary. There are only four conservation master's degree programs in the United States, offered by the following institutions: University of Delaware, New York University, University of California Los Angeles, and Buffalo State University. Therefore, it is vital to keep the admissions requirements for these institutions in mind as you plan your undergraduate studies.
Conservation is an interdisciplinary field that relies heavily on chemistry, art history/anthropology, and art. Therefore, UD’s undergraduate program requires students to do well in each of these three areas, while gaining practical experiences working in the field. Many of our undergraduates (35%) successfully gain entry into one of the highly-competitive conservation graduate programs in the United States, especially if they are willing to spend time post-graduation gaining additional conservation experience. However, some students prefer to pursue other areas of museum work, such as registration, collections care, curation, and art handling. Others seek work and graduate degrees in areas related to archives, libraries, art history, anthropology, or historic preservation. Undergraduates gain a strong grounding in preventive conservation and ethics that can serve them well in many settings within cultural heritage fields.
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