Conservation Center: Program Overview

All students enrolled in the conservation program follow a mandatory two-year cycle of core courses specifically designed to introduce the fundamentals of materials science, conservation theory, analytical techniques, 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.

Core curriculum courses include

Technology and Structure of Works of Art I and II
Materials Science of Art and Archaeology I and II
Principles of Conservation
Instrumental Analysis I and II
Preventive Conservation

In the second year, students conclude the core cycle and, having decided on their specialization the first year, begin training in their chosen area of conservation study. Formal courses in each specialization, as well as conservation-specific science topics, are offered at the Conservation Center and at museums and conservation labs in New York City. Given the wealth of resources available to them—in the form of people, collections, and institutions—students can also pursue independent research projects in areas of particular interest to them at museums or private laboratories in and around the city.

The emphasis placed on art history within the curriculum 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, of publishable quality. Students must also successfully pass a language translation exam within their first two years of study, in the language of their choosing, French, German or Italian.

During the third year, students continue upper-level conservation treatment coursework in their area of concentration. Objects chosen for treatment come from the Center’s own study collection, local institutions, private collectors, as well as institutions around the U.S. who lack conservation facilities. Students work on a significant number of pieces while in the program, the majority of which are full treatments or technical studies that show the full arc of a treatment. This includes initial condition report writing; scientific analysis; treatment proposal writing; full documentation, written and photographic; full treatment completion; final report writing; and packing or rehousing. During this time, students will also 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.

The fourth 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.

General Conservation Program Outline

This is only a generalization of the four-year program. Individual student registrations may vary according to specialization.

22 courses are taken over three years: 15 in conservation and 7 in art history.

First Year

Fall Semester

  1. Technology & Structure of Works of Art I
  2. Material Science of Works of Art I
  3. Foundations I in Art History
  4. Art History Elective (Lecture) 

Spring Semester

  1. Technology & Structure of Works of Art II
  2. Material Science of Works of Art II
  3. Principles of Conservation
  4. Art History Elective (Seminar)

Summer 1

  • Internship(s), participation in an IFA-sponsored or co-sponsored archaeological dig, conservation projects at Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy

Second Year

Fall Semester

  1. Instrumental Analysis I
  2. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective
  3. Advanced Conservat
  4. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective

Spring Semester

  1. Instrumental Analysis II
  2. Preventive Conservation
  3. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective
  4. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective

Summer 2

  • Internship(s), participation in an IFA-sponsored or co-sponsored archaeological dig, conservation projects at Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy

Third Year

Fall Semester

  1. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective
  2. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective
  3. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective

Spring Semester

  1. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective
  2. Advanced Conservation or Art History Elective
  3. Directed Research Towards the MA Thesis

Summer 3

  • Internship(s), participation in an IFA-sponsored or co-sponsored archaeological dig, conservation projects at Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy

Fourth Year

Fall Semester

  • Internship Placement

Spring Semester

  • Internship Placement (continued)