Since 1960, the Institute’s Conservation Center has prepared students for careers in conservation and technical study through a four-year graduate program where students earn both a Master’s in art history and an Advanced Certificate in conservation. NYU is alone among North American graduate programs in conservation to confer both a Master of Arts in art history and an Advanced Certificate in conservation. The program combines practical experience in conservation with art historical, archaeological, curatorial, and scientific studies of the materials and construction of works of art.
The emphasis on art history is an indication of the importance we attach to providing students with social, historical, and theoretical contexts for the objects they will treat. Students devote a significant amount of time to becoming familiar with the literature in several areas of art history, writing clear and scholarly prose, preparing and delivering seminar presentations, and completing a Master’s Thesis in art history.
Led by Sherman Fairchild Chairman Michele Marincola, the Center’s faculty comprises four full-time professors and more than 20 adjunct lecturers, drawn largely from New York City museums and cultural institutions, who offer instruction in all areas of conservation, technical art history and conservation science. Enhancing the educational resources of the program, additional local conservators serve as guest lecturers within the curriculum and supervise independent student projects.
Download Program Outline [PDF]
Regardless of future specialization, all students enrolled in the conservation program follow a mandatory two-year cycle of required or “core” courses specifically designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of materials science, conservation, and preventive care.
The first year of conservation coursework introduces students to an understanding of materials and technology, with a heavy emphasis on direct observation. The courses are designed to complement one another and include lectures as well as laboratory instruction. Core coursework includes:
Technology and Structure of Works of Art I and II
A two-semester course that serves as a general introduction to the materials and methods used in the fabrication of works of art and the alterations resulting from mechanical and chemical forces as art objects age. Students learn to identify materials, techniques, and methodologies used by artists and address issues of provenance, dating, cultural values, and subsequent alterations.
Materials Science of Art and Archaeology I and II
These two courses are taken simultaneously with Technology and Structure of Art I and II and introduces students to the chemical composition and identification of materials used in the construction and conservation of works of art, and to the general principles of materials science that govern their response to their environment.
Principles of Conservation
This course presents students with an overview of the history of the profession, as well as the principles of ethics and conservation documentation. Through case studies and examples of current methodologies for approaching examination and treatment, students learn the fundamentals of adhesion, consolidation, structural support, cleaning, and loss compensation.
In the second year, students investigate how materials change, with an emphasis on sources of deterioration, recognizing and analyzing deterioration, and documentation. Required core coursework in this year includes:
Instrumental Analysis I and II
This two-semester course introduces students to the instrumental methods of examination and analysis that find frequent use in conservation. Lectures on specific techniques are accompanied by hands-on demonstrations and laboratory exercises aimed toward developing student capability for independent use.
A one-semester course modeled after the case study format used in other graduate programs in areas such as law or medicine. It fosters in students a deeper understanding of the role of the environment factors, including temperature and humidity, atmospheric pollutants, biodeterioration, and vibration, in the processes of deterioration and change of cultural property. Students consider ethical constraints and risk management as they devise sustainable preventive conservation options that mitigate damage to cultural property.
In the second year of study, students also begin coursework in specialized areas of study such as paintings, paper, photographs, objects, and textiles, as well as any sub-specialty in modern and contemporary art. Formal courses in each of these subjects are offered at the Conservation Center and at area museums in New York City. Students can also pursue independent research projects in areas of particular interest to them at museums or private laboratories. Past projects have included: the analysis of Donald Judd sculptures at the Guggenheim Museum; an investigation of inks used by Andy Warhol at the Museum of Modern Art; thin section petrographic microscopy of cemetery materials, including slate, marble and brownstone; analysis of finishes used on photographs at the Museum of Modern Art; and the treatment of a 15th-century Spanish altarpiece at The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
During the third year, students continue upper-level conservation coursework in their area of concentration and complete any remaining requirements for the MA degree in art history, including the completion of the Master’s Thesis. Simultaneously, they work with their advisor and the Chairman to make arrangements for a fourth-year Internship. Prior to the fourth year of study, all conservation students must complete one science elective.
The fourth year and final year is spent completing a nine-month Internship in a conservation establishment in the United States or abroad that is selected to provide the best possible training in the student’s area of concentration. Latest Internship Placements [PDF]