Art conservation interns


Check out this UDaily article from July 16 featuring two members of the Class of 2014!


End of Year Two

As the last of the assignments trickle in and the class of 2014 heads out to their summer work project sites, it’s a good time to look back and remember the amazing things we accomplished during the year: summer work project talks, seminars, clinics, third-year internship interviews, ANAGPIC talks, technical studies, independent study projects, treatments, qualifying exams, and even talks at AIC! Congratulations to everyone and best of luck with your summer and third-year internships. I miss you all already!


The class of 2014 at Debbie’s end-of-year party. From left to right: Becky, Tessa, Jen, Courtney, Elizabeth, Jessica, Marlene, Heather, Samantha, and Vicky.


Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

Please join us in welcoming the following students to Winterthur:


Sydney Beall

Miranda Dunn

Bianca Garcia

Lauren Gottschlich

Anisha Gupta

Jacinta Johnson

Pamela Johnson

Jose Lazarte

Catherine Magee

Alexandra Nichols


You can read more about them on the WUDPAC website this fall.


This year, the annual conference of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation was held in Los Angeles from April 24-27. Even though it was a long distance to travel across the country, it was worth it to experience the art and culture of California, as well as amazing institutions like The Getty Villa, The Getty Center, and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Thanks to our hosts, the Getty/UCLA Program, for doing such a great job organizing the event! For more information on the conference, check out the UCLA/Getty blog.

Here’s a look at some highlights of our trip:

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Best of luck to everyone presenting next year in Buffalo!

~ Heather

Here we go…almost

It’s crazy to think that it was a full year ago when we posted our 2012 summer internship sites to the blog! Now, here we are, finishing projects and packing our apartments in preparation to head out all over the world for 2013 summer and third-year internships.

Blue = 2013 SWP, Red = 3rd year


Disaster Recovery

Last week, in a move of calendar-manipulating bravado, my classmate Jessica and I moved our MLK day of service up a few days and traveled to the Cultural Recovery Center in New York, where we assisted with the recovery of paintings damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  The storm surge caused by the hurricane flooded many galleries and artists’ studios, especially those in Chelsea, an area considered to be the epicenter of contemporary art in America.  Immediately after the storm, the American Institute for Conservation’s Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) teamed up with the Museum of Modern Art and other organizations to disburse information to the public about caring for their damaged art, including a free public information session at MoMA on November 4th.  The Foundation for the American Institute of Conservation (FAIC) and AIC-CERT opened the Cultural Recovery Center on December 10th, which is funded by grants from Sotheby’s, the New York Community Trust, the Smithsonian Institution, and many other generous supporters.  Conservators and other cultural heritage professionals have been volunteering their time since then to assist and advise artists, gallery owners, historic sites and archives, libraries, museums, and collectors with recovery of their Sandy-damaged pieces.

Vacuuming and dusting

Image: Sara Levin

Third-year fellow Sara Levin also happened to be volunteering that day, so after an unexpected WUDPAC mini-reunion, the three of us performed mold mitigation and grime removal on several paintings and works of art by artists who brought their damaged works to the CRC.  Several of these paintings had been submerged in 3-7 feet of water for several hours during the storm, and some of them had severe mold damage.  Later in the day, we also worked with artist Ronnie Landfield to dust his huge canvas paintings before rolling them on large tubes to reduce deformations caused by their submersion when his Tribeca studio flooded during the storm.  In return, he regaled us during lunch with tales of being a teenager on the New York art scene in the 1960s.

Grime removal

Image: Samantha Skelton

We were glad to help out with the recovery effort, but we were surprised by the relative emptiness of the space.  As CRC studio manager Anna Studebaker explained, a lot of the artists whose studios were affected by the storm threw out their damaged pieces, perhaps believing they couldn’t be saved or possibly on advice from emergency management officials who might have considered the wet and quickly molding artworks to be a health hazard.  With every passing disaster, we learn more about the measures to take before and after, and this one is no different.  We need to use the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Hurricane Sandy and the countless stories of loss to get the word out: we can save your art!  (Or at the very least, tell you how to save your art!)  Click here to find out more about the CRC or contact them to assist with your damaged works.


Mist Consolidation Reunion

The second year of the WUDPAC program has given me separation anxiety. Not because I’m homesick or because I’m nervous about leaving Delaware at the end of this year , but because I rarely get to spend time with my classmates who have chosen to specialize in a different area of conservation. During the first year of the program, all ten members of our class spent at least ten hours a day together at least ten days a week. For good or for bad, we were inseparable.

This year, we have all moved on to separate labs–I’m lucky enough to be one of five people majoring in the conservation of objects and artifacts, so I still get to work with Becky, Jen, Marlene, and Vicky on a daily basis. But, our schedules for independent study, seminars on topics within our major, and treatment project are different than those of our classmates in other labs. And I have to say, I really miss those ladies!

This week, in the spirit of the holiday season, we had the opportunity to have two mini-reunuions. The first came in the form of our annual “Yankee” Christmas (aka white elephant) gift exchange. This $10-limit dazzler did not disappoint, and people walked away with gifts such as plastic mustaches, a mouse figurine made of iron, and zebra striped water bottle. I myself ended up with a bedazzled IPhone cover (which I have to admit that I secretly like). Check it out: Jewelzzz

As you can see, it was a pretty excellent event.

The second reunion came in the form of a seminar on mist consolidation (taught by Julie Ream), which is a technique used by objects, paintings, paper, photo, and textile conservators alike. It’s essentially a process in which a dilute adhesive is applied as a mist to a very sensitive or friable surface (typically painted). The adhesive serves to provide some stability on the surface and to prevent significant loss of the decoration. It’s applied as a mist to minimize color change and tidelines, two phenomena that can occur when you apply adhesive to a surface. As part of the workshop, we got to compare and contrast the working properties different ultrasonic and pneumatic misters. Below is a photo of me working with a pneumatic mister to apply .5% Aquazol 500 to the painted surface of a feather. For personal safety reasons, respirators were worn by everyone throughout the workshop.

Consolidating a painted feather with a pneumatic mister.

Consolidating a painted feather with a pneumatic mister.


Consolidation of a flaking/brittle paper surface.

Consolidation of a flaking/brittle painted paper surface with an ultrasonic mister.

Overall, it was a great seminar that proved to be very informative. Not to mention that it was a chance for us to reunite as a class before the holidays. Speaking of which, we wish you all the best during this holiday season and hope that you have many reunions of your own!


A Cross-country Symposium Extravaganza

This semester, some enticing professional meetings (sounds crazy, I know) managed to arrange themselves within one week of each other. They also managed to convince me that I should be in attendance at each of them, despite the fact that they took place on opposite sides of the country. Grad school is all about challenging yourself, right?

Leaving directly from class on a Thursday morning, I joined my classmate Sam, my instructor Joyce, and WUDPAC alumnus Amber Kerr-Allison for a quick drive up the coast to Boston, for the Second Association of Historians of American Art Annual Symposium. There, New York Times art critic Holland Cotter gave a great keynote address, sharing his own background, inspiring the audience to “be obsessed!” and setting the stage for two days of talks all about American art, artists, collectors, and institutions.  On Sunday we drove further north to  Maine, where the gorgeous show Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine was just opening at the Portland Museum of Art. Along with viewing the show and attending a couple of fascinating related lectures, we also toured Homer’s studio/home and Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck.

A perfect day to experience the Cliff Walk just outside of Homer’s studio.

I then left my fellow travelers and flew to L.A., swallowing any hints of jet-lag that threatened to dull my most-anticipated symposium of the week: The Siqueiros Legacy: Challenges of Conserving the Artist’s Monumental Murals, hosted by the Getty Conservation Institute. This two-day symposium focused on the conservation of several works by the radical Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, particularly America Tropicál (1932), a rooftop mural on historic Olvera Street in downtown L.A. Because of its controversial subject matter, the mural was completely whitewashed within a decade of its creation. Conservation of the mural began in 1990, and the final stage was just completed this fall. All aspects of the massive project were covered during the symposium, including the conservation treatment itself, the garnering of public and financial support, the design and implementation of a protective shelter and viewing platform, and the cultural and practical issues that arose during a construction project in a bustling commercial district filled with historic structures. Symposium participants also got to visit the downtown site, experiencing first-hand the freshly treated mural and new interpretive center. And as a bonus for me, WUDPAC alumni Emily MacDonald-Korth (of the GCI) and Laura Rivers (of the Getty Museum) showed me their respective labs and studios at the Getty Center.

America Tropicál as seen from the viewing platform.

Left: an interactive display inside the interpretive center. Right: view of the mural from Olvera Street.

I landed back on the East Coast just in time to drive straight from the airport to Thursday morning class — except for the fascinating art and scenery, a few new friends, some amazing presentations, and 6000+ miles covered, it was like I never left.

~ Jessica

Diagnosing priceless possessions

During one afternoon each month, WUDPAC students and staff hold a conservation clinic. Members of the public can call in advance and make an appointment to speak with a conservator about a collectible or family heirloom that may be in need of treatment or preventive care. As part of the second year curriculum, we students have the opportunity to sit in on the appointments related to our material specialty, with the idea that by the end of the year we will be expert enough to conduct the appointments on our own.

Not only is clinic an excellent opportunity for public outreach, but we see some amazing curiosities walk through the door. Just last week, a man brought in a document signed by Abraham Lincoln! Paper Conservator Joan Irving discussed possible treatment options to reduce deformations in the parchment and suggested a list of conservators to contact for treatment. Other appointments may focus on the care and handling of an object, such as a family Bible, advising on the use of book wedges for viewing and a box for storage. Occasionally, a generous person will bring in an object to donate to the program to serve as a student project, and those items are always welcome and appreciated.

Bruno Pouliot examines a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, while a crowd of captivated students look on.

Every month when clinic rolls around, I’m excited to see what’s on the list for paper, books, and photographs, as well as in the other specialties. The objects conservators look at such a variety of materials in their appointments, the paintings conservators see some interesting condition issues, and the textile conservators always book up quickly. If you live in the Wilmington area and you have some questions about your own treasure, please come and see us!


Culture Clashes, Conservation, and Coconuts

Looking over the lawn at Shangri La’s Playhouse, Diamond Head, and the ocean. Keep in mind, this is only the guesthouse!

This summer, Jessica and I have had the pleasure of working at Shangri La to help preserve a beautiful example of Islamic interior architecture.  “What is Shangri La?,” you ask.  Why, it’s the lavish Honolulu home of early 20th century Newport socialite Doris Duke.  She created this sprawling five acre property at the base of Diamond Head and filled it with an exceptional collection of art from the far reaches of the Islamic world, including Syria, Iran, Morocco, Turkey, India, Spain and Egypt (just to name a few).  Here, American and traditional Hawaiian culture mingles with that of the Muslim world, as Shangri La serves the mission of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) to promote the study, understanding, and preservation of Islamic art and culture.  Shangri La and WUDPAC have partnered for the past eight years to support this summer internship; previous interns completed the conservation of the newly-opened Damascus Room, the past two rounds have brought WUDPAC interns into the Syrian Room to conserve the ceiling and the mirrored doors, and now we have joined these esteemed colleagues to work on the wall elements in the Syrian Room.

The room was installed by Duke and her staff in the late 1970s, during which time extensive campaigns of restoration were carried out on many of the room’s elements.   She sought to create an entrancing space which would evoke the feeling of a traditional qa’a, or reception hall, that could be found in a wealthy 19th century Damascene home.  Brightly colored painted wood paneling, gilded surfaces, an awe-inspiring decorative wooden ceiling and a marble floor and fountain all serve to delight the senses and showcase the home’s prosperity and the owner’s fashionable taste.  Though the room is a pastiche, created with elements taken from several different Damascene homes, Duke arranged the room in the typical style of a qa’a, with a lowered entrance with a fountain (an ‘ataba), a raised marble seating platform (a tazar) and a raised ceiling supported by a whitewashed wall inset with decorative windows. The overall feeling of this arrangement is light, airy and inviting, while the color scheme is designed to dazzle the viewer.

The large chamber of the Syrian Room.

Shangri La’s seaside locale and semi-open air design, along with Hawaii’s warm, humid, and salty climate, means that its world class collection of Islamic art will need vigilant conservation care.  The painted wooden elements in the room had several persistent condition issues including flaking paint, subsurface insect damage and structural issues caused by wood’s natural tendency to respond dimensionally to changes in the environment.  Our goals this summer included mapping the current condition of each section of the room, to serve as baseline documentation for future comparison, and to address the immediate issue of flaking paint.  We slowly worked our way through the room, documenting the decorative panels, cabinets and calligraphic cartouches that adorn the walls, and consolidating flaking paint where necessary.

As Jessica and I will be specializing in paintings conservation as we move into our next year of the program, this summer gave us the opportunity to work on an unorthodox object in our field.  It also offered us the opportunity to enhance our hand, observational, and problem-solving skills, which will serve us well in the coming years.  As the summer comes to a close, we have been very grateful to work in a wonderful institution, to live on this beautiful island, to contribute to the preservation of a unique example of Syrian interior architecture, and to experience the fantastic and surreal culture clash that is Shangri La.


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