Project-based instruction plays an important role in the development of a well-rounded conservator as it allows students to develop technical abilities and collaborative skills in the workplace. To this end, the Conservation Center facilitates the design of practical training opportunities for students during the summer and in the winter intersession at archaeological excavations, museums, and historic houses such as Villa La Pietra, NYU’s campus in Florence, Italy.
For over 45 years, Conservation Center students have spent their summers working at Institute-sponsored excavations, such as Aphrodisias in Turkey, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace in Greece, and Selinunte in Italy. During the winter, advanced objects students are able to participate in the excavations at Abydos in Egypt. Students who participate at archaeological sites carry out treatment of newly excavated materials (including metals, ceramics, glass, wall paintings, mosaics, stone, cartonnage and human burials) and of previously excavated and treated objects currently in storage or housed in on-site museums. They also consult with archaeologists and other specialists on handling and storage issues. Students are encouraged to think independently in designing and undertaking treatments, and gain experience in the adaption of techniques learned in the classroom to new and changing “real life” situations. In addition to treatment, students also have the opportunity to assess the success of past conservation treatments.
NYU students also serve as part of the conservation team at the Harvard University sponsored excavation at Sardis in Turkey. Students have the option to join excavations directed by other universities in their field of study as well. In recent years, students have participated at archaeological sites in Italy, Crete, Cyprus, China, Greece, and Tunisia.
Villa La Pietra
New York University’s Florentine campus, Villa La Pietra, is another breathtaking locale for work opportunities. Bequeathed to the University in 1994 by Sir Harold Acton, the Villa houses an extensive and relatively unrestored collection of early Italian paintings, textiles, sculpture, furniture, porcelains and more. Because the Villa’s collection is so vast and comprises a wide variety of materials, there are literally endless possibilities for education and training. Conservation Center faculty, along with Villa consultants and local conservators, are responsible for the care of the collection. Student projects, lasting anywhere from one week to one month, focus on the treatment of artifacts, the survey of the collection, and providing on-going maintenance of the estate. Recently, the Institute has been able to support interdisciplinary research and study sessions at the Villa. Students are paired in teams of conservator-art historian to research both historical and material aspects of the works of art in the collection using the curatorial files at the Villa, the library and photo archives at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, and the library at Villa I Tatti.
In addition to NYU-sponsored activities, students are able to choose among a host of exciting summer work opportunities at museums, historic houses, and conservation labs where they can reinforce and develop the skills they acquire in the classroom. Although it is not required, many students opt to spend part or all of their summer interning at a conservation establishment in the US or abroad. Recent internship locations include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Norse Folk Museum in Oslo, Norway; the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; Victoria Hall Memorial, India; Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Netherlands; the Walter’s Art Gallery, Baltimore; and the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Short Courses and Special Programs
Various short courses are held annually to supplement the curriculum.
Specialized Training in Archaeological Conservation: Preparation for Working on Site
In advance of the summer field season, the Center annually holds an intensive week-long workshop that emphasizes the application of sound conservation methodology under less-than-ideal conditions. Coordinated by Anna Serotta, consulting conservator for the excavations at Selinunte, students participate in lectures and labs by leading archaeological conservators. Topics of discussion focus on technical, ethical and practical issues students will likely face in archaeological fieldwork in the Mediterranean. The workshop, made possible by the Hagop Kevorkian Fund, includes hands-on exercises, problem solving, and student presentations, in conjunction with directed readings and seminars. This workshop is open to students from the other graduate programs in conservation.
Workshop in the Techniques of Paintings Examination
On occasion, the Center holds a week-long workshop in the techniques of paintings examination for conservation and art history students/faculty, as well as invited guests from area museums. Topics have included cross sections analysis and pigment identification with Dr. Ashok Roy of the National Gallery London and infrared reflectography with Dr. Molly Faires from Indiana University and the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). The format allows for collaboration between art historians and conservators and takes both an interdisciplinary and hands-on approach to the material.
Introduction to the History of Bookbinding and Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography: Understanding the Book
Utilizing Columbia University Libraries’ special collections, these two winter intersession courses broadly introduce Mellon library and archive students to the history of the book as a material object and to the ways in which scholars interpret physical evidence to determine how books were produced. Students join in extended laboratory sessions examining, analyzing and describing evidence in rare books and documents from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Burke Library such as a medieval Caroline minuscule to the first edition of Ulysses. Lecturers bring paleography, the history of the book, and bibliography to life with examples from the Libraries’ rich. The course is taught by a team of specialists including Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library curators Jane Siegel and Consuelo Dutschke; the Libraries’ conservators Alexis Hagadorn, Vasaré Rastonis and Jennifer Jarvis; and Gerald Cloud, Head Librarian of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.
History of Book Structures Practicum
This in-depth, six-week summer course provides an overview to the history and materials of bookbinding through detailed practice and study of selected historical binding structures and techniques. Led by Alexis Hagadorn and colleagues at the Columbia University Libraries, Mellon library and archive students gain a thorough understanding of bookbinding construction through all historical periods by practicing methods of sewing, spine shaping, covering, endbanding and binding in boards of several broad binding types.
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