Art Conservation 101:  Introduction to Art Conservation

Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2018, Fall 2022

Eric Doehne

“In time and with water, everything changes.”

 – Leonardo da Vinci

Course Description and Rationale

This course provides an overview of the interdisciplinary field of art conservation.

The diagnosis, treatment and management of our cultural resources in art, archaeology and architecture face numerous challenges, ranging from the perishable character of some contemporary art to pollution, tourism and climate change. Conservation raises important questions that will confront future generations. What is the role of permanence in a change-driven society? Who owns the past? Who decides why and what to conserve? How best can the stewardship of our past be incorporated into economic and social development? How can science and technology enhance the understanding and preservation of works of art?

While a relatively young profession, conservation has deep historical roots, opportunities for innovation and a growing international cadre of interdisciplinary conservation professionals. This course provides a grounding in issues of importance to future artists, applied scientists, art historians, archaeologists, and cultural resource managers. The diverse scale of the conservation profession ranges from the investigation of nanoscale deterioration mechanisms and the treatment of a single object to issues of sustainability and the management of world heritage cities. From the Sistine Chapel to Georgia O'Keefe, and Ruskin to the Venice Charter, the conservation of art blends a compelling range of issues and ideas with the need for critical thinking and decision-making skills.

At the conclusion of the course, participants will have a basic understanding of the interdisciplinary field of art conservation, including the scope and range of relevant issues, the ethics and philosophical origins of different conservation approaches, how to investigate conservation issues and evaluate conservation projects.