Combined Degree in Conservation and Art History

The Institute's Conservation Center, located in the Stephen Chan House, is dedicated to the study of the technology and conservation of works of art and historic artifacts.The Center prepares students for careers in conservation through a four-year, dual MS/MA program that combines practical experience in conservation with art historical, archaeological, curatorial, and scientific studies of the materials and construction of works of art. Students enroll in the MA program in art history and at the same time undertake research projects, laboratory work, and seminars in special areas of conservation, such as advanced x-ray techniques or the treatment of modern and contemporary paintings.

Students gain intensive conservation experience through advanced fieldwork and a nine-month internship. They are encouraged to obtain additional conservation experience during summer archaeological excavations or other formal work projects. The Center also provides courses in connoisseurship and technical art history for students pursuing studies in art history, archaeology, and curatorial studies, which are intended to acquaint them with the physical structure of works of art, the need for preservation, and the possibilities and limitations of conservation. Classes are taught by the Center's distinguished full and part-time faculty, many of whom serve as conservators and scientists at New York City's prestigious museums. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, the Center's faculty are active in research and other professional activities in the United States and abroad.

Course of Study

Seventy-three (73) points in total are required for the combined MA degree in art history and MS in conservation. Seven art history courses (28 points) in three major areas are taken, including at least two seminars. The seminars cannot be in the same area of study.

Fifteen conservation courses (45 points) are taken, beginning with a two-year cycle of “core courses” that introduce students to the fundamentals of material science, conservation and preventive care. These core conservation courses are: Technology & Structure I and II, Material Science of Art & Archaeology I and II, Principles of Conservation, Instrumental Analysis I and II, and Preventive Conservation. In the second year of study, students choose to specialize in a primary area of study in paintings, objects, paper, photographs, textiles, or digital/ new media. Students wishing to specialize in library & archive conservation begin this specialization during their first year of study, and must specify this interest in their application. Students may additionally declare an interest in modern and contemporary art conservation and take course work towards this specialty. Upper-level courses in each of these areas, as well as individualized instruction from conservators in the New York City area, are available..

The Internship is completed over two semesters in the fourth year in a conservation establishment either in this country or abroad, selected to afford the best possible training in the student's area of specialization. Arrangements are made in consultation with the Chairman of the Conservation Center and he student's primary advisor.

All requirements for the Institute's MA degree, including language, academic standards, timing, and the Masters Thesis apply equally to the students in the conservation training program.

A typical course schedule follows:

Year One:
  Foundations I (counts as art history course)
  Foundations II: Technology & Structure of Works of Art I
  Technology & Structure of Works of Art II
  Material Science of Art & Archaeology I and II
  Principles of Conservation
  2 art history courses

Year Two:
  Preventive Conservation
  Instrumental Analysis I and II
  2 art history courses
  3 advanced conservation courses
  Successful passage of one language exam

Year Three:
  Directed Research Towards the MA Thesis 
  1 conservation science elective 
  1 art history course
  3 advanced conservation courses 
  Complete MA Thesis 

Year Four:
  9-month Internship