ECPN Webinar: 'Beyond the Pre-requisites: Preparing for Graduate Education in Art Conservation': Follow-up Q&A

In order to address some remaining questions from the recent webinar ‘Beyond the Prerequisites: Preparing for Graduate Education in Art Conservation’, ECPN asked our five presenters (Peggy Ellis from NYU, Ellen Pearlstein from UCLA/Getty, Debbie Hess Norris of Winterthur/Univ. of DE, James Hamm of Buffalo State, and Rosaleen HIll from Queen’s) to reply to our audience. Their individual responses have been summarized below. If you have any additional questions or concerns on our webinar topic, remember that you can always contact individual programs or reach out via ECPN officers and our Facebook page.
The recorded webinar is available at
1. If an applicant who has exceeded the required amount of experience takes a break from conservation internships to pursue other academic/artistic endeavors, how will it affect her/his application?
All five respondents reply that because conservation is a multi-faceted field with an interdisciplinary focus, work in other fields is highly encouraged. The development of academic, artistic, research, or other skills is an asset and often helps an applicant if her/his interests can be connected to a topic within conservation. Additional fields of study or experience could be chemistry, biochemistry, art history, anthropology, studio arts, museum studies, environmental science, collections management, or any other number of related fields. Furthermore, one respondent notes that: “Each person’s life path is unique. What appears to be ‘taking a break’ may, in retrospect, be the absolute best possible path to a successful career in art conservation (or something else!).”
2. If an internship with a conservator is not available in my area, are there other kinds of experience that are desirable?
While conservation experience is an important, if not always mandatory, part of one’s pre-program work, our webinar presenters suggested several ways to become involved with conservation and broaden an applicant’s knowledge of collections management and preventive care. These include working with a registrar or archivist; working at smaller and/or local institutions like archives, libraries, or historical societies and museums; gaining laboratory and handling skills by volunteering to process archaeological finds or mount samples for scientific analysis, possibly at a local university; working in an art supply or framing shop. In order to keep yourself informed about the conservation field, be sure to take part in local conferences or workshops. Join AIC as a Student member and take advantage of on-line conservation courses and other resources. Finally, be sure to look into AIC’s (or CAC’s) Mentorship Program to check for local professionals who might be willing to mentor via email or Skype.
3. If someone hasn’t been successfully admitted after a few years of applying, what alternatives do you suggest s/he take to remain in the profession?
Becoming a registrar or collections care manager for an institution, gallery, or contemporary artist is a recommended career path. Other suggestions include working in arts advocacy or pursuing an advanced degree in museum studies, museum education, library sciences, archival studies, or a related field in the sciences.
4. Is it better to have a long internship experience at one institution or short periods of time at several?
Our presenters agree that there is no single answer to this question. They note that it is important to be exposed to a variety of materials and practices, and that the quality of the supervision is a key factor in gaining skills and knowledge. Short-term (e.g. once or twice/week for a few months) projects may be less successful in this respect though they may be valuable in other ways.
5. Is an applicant’s age taken into consideration?
All five programs agree that age is not a factor in admission. However one respondent adds that, at any age, ’applicants must demonstrate an openness to learning, curiosity, initiative, and a passion for the preservation of cultural heritage’.