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Subject: Conservation training opportunities

Conservation training opportunities

From: Sarah Lowengard <sarahl>
Date: Friday, February 3, 1995
William Barrow <r1647 [at] vmcms__csuohio__edu> writes
Subject: Conservation training opportunities

>I am
>interested in knowing how one goes about breaking into the field of
>preservation and restoration, particularly involving paper and textiles.

Below is a sort of boilerplate that I use when people write (or call) me
about "breaking into"  textile conservation.  I was membership secretary
of an organization called The Textile Conservation Group about 8 or so
years ago, and still receive queries regularly.  You should keep in mind
that these are my views and opinions.  Other conservators you talk to
might (probably will) have other ideas.  If you have other, more
specific questions I'd be happy to try to answer them.

    I strongly recommend some internship experience before making any
    final commitment to textile conservation.  Even with a background in
    a related area, conservation can be intellectually, physically and
    emotionally very far removed from anything you've ever done before,
    and internships give you some sense of what it's like to do this
    work before you've made a major commitment.  If you can manage it, I
    also recommend several internships, at least one in another area of
    conservation, and definitely in different kinds of labs.  I know,
    though that funding for this early training is difficult to come by.
    Occasionally pre-program internships will provide a stipend, but it
    depends on where and when.  You might be able to find some funding
    from an outside foundation, but you'd have to search that out

    Other preparation you can be doing now is paying visits to
    conservation labs.  Dumb (and time consuming) as this may seem, it's
    a good way to get a sense of the range of the discipline, and to
    talk informally to a number of people about their experiences in the

    A graduate degree may not be so important if you want to work as an
    independent textile conservator, and don't care much about
    participating in some aspects of professional life.  Still, having
    been through one of the programs is a good idea these days.  I
    didn't do it, but I apprenticed more than fifteen years ago and
    things were quite different then.  If you think you will want to
    work in or for museums or other institutions (especially
    institutions dependent on grants for conservation funding), then a
    graduate degree in conservation really is a requirement--I have a
    number of friends (some with MAs in other, related fields) who have
    been passed over for museum jobs in favor of less experienced
    conservators who had been through programs.  And graduate school
    does provide an element of networking that could be invaluable.

    But--and this is a big but--the AIC limits its acknowledgement of
    conservation training programs to nine schools.  These are

    *   the Conservation Center of NYU's Institute of Fine Arts

    *   The Center for Conservation and technical studies at Harvard

    *   Columbia University program in architectural preservation

    *   the Furniture Conservation training program, run through the
        Conservation Analytical Labs at the Smithsonian

    *   the art conservation program at Queen's University, in Ontario

    *   the training program at NY State University College at Buffalo

    *   the Winterthur program at the University of Delaware

    *   the book and paper training program at the University of Texas

    *   the historic preservation/architecture program at Penn

    Of these, NYU, Winterthur and Queen's are the only schools that
    offer majors or specialization in textiles, and neither takes many
    conservation students, no matter their intended sub-specialty. There
    are other textile and/or costume conservation training programs--at
    the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York, at the University
    of Rhode Island, in Kingston, at the Textile Conservation Centre at
    Hampton Court Palace (yes, England), for example. These can provide
    the training, but your entree into conservation outside of the
    textile/costume conservation community may be less enthusiastic.

    Another route that often occurs to potential textile conservators is
    to take a masters in textiles (usually textile chemistry or
    engineering), as these are offered at many state universities, and
    many programs have established or tried to establish a place for
    themselves in conservation training. I have colleagues who have done
    this but, again, there are caveats. First it is essential to find
    some way to participate in the museum and conservation communities
    while still a student--through internships, attending meetings or
    symposia, etc. In the past, graduates with an MS (or, occasionally,
    PhD) in textiles who have not established these contacts before they
    appear in the conservation job market have not been well received.

    The second caveat is that you should be strong enough to withstand
    the pressure that will come when, as graduation nears, your
    classmates are choosing among jobs in the textile industry with
    starting salaries above $50,000, and you are hoping for a 1-year
    internships paying $18,000 or $20,000.  Money is a real problem in
    textile conservation.  I have always assumed that is because true or
    not, there is a perception that any gentlewoman can do the work of a
    textile and costume conservator, and because per square inch
    textiles have minimal value when compared to any painting (for
    example) of the same period. Although relative salaries are much
    better than they were a decade ago, until you are established, you
    may have to choose between eating and paying rent.

Sarah Lowengard

                  Conservation DistList Instance 8:62
                 Distributed: Tuesday, February 7, 1995
                        Message Id: cdl-8-62-002
Received on Friday, 3 February, 1995

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