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What is an Art Conservator?

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Now that the exterior paint removal is complete, the more tedious, but very important work of prepping the interior surface of the statue has begun. The interior and exterior will be painted, which should provide a level of protection against corrosion. To get a good bond between the new paint layer and the metal, all of the loose and unstable paint layers need to be removed. On the interior of the statue, this has to be done by hand. It is an exacting and time-consuming process.

Some of you may be wondering exactly what is an art conservator and how anyone discovers this relatively obscure field that is a combination of studio art, materials science, and art history.

For me, it was my high school art teacher showing me an article in the New York Times about conservators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, looking at Rembrandt paintings with x-radiographs in order to discover which ones might be fakes. Many years later, I find myself working as an objects conservator at the Brooklyn Museum, where we are currently looking at limestone relief fragments to determine which ones might be fake.

In the past, most conservators apprenticed to gain experience I the field. Now, there are four graduate programs in the United Statues offering Master’s Degrees in Art Conservation. They are the following:

Art Conservation Department, Buffalo State College, artcon@buffalostate.edu; http://www.buffalostate.edu/depts/artconservation

Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, Michele.marincola@nyu.edu

Getty Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation, University of California, Los Angeles, acordts@ucla.edu; http://ioa.ucla.edu/conservation

Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, dhnorris@udel.edu

There are additionally other programs in the field of architectural preservation. Architectural conservators will often work on large sculptural projects, such as the Brooklyn Museum’s Replica of the Statue of Liberty. Two are offered at the following Universities:

Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, New York City, jf2060@columbia.edu; www.arch.columbia.edu

University of Pennsylvania, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, fgmatero@design.upenn.edu

For information on selecting a conservator, please contact The American Institute for Conservation at info@aic-faic.org, or visit their website at www.aic-faic.org

Lisa Bruno, Conservator of Objects