Welcome 2018-19 ECPN Officers!

As incoming Chair, I am pleased to introduce the officers of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network for the 2018-2019 term.

ECPN is grateful for the dedication and service of our outgoing officers Alyssa Rina and Emma Schmitt; our Regional, Graduate Program, Specialty Group, and Committee liaisons; and our outgoing Chair, Rebecca Gridley. We wish you all the best and hope to see you involved in future AIC and ECPN initiatives!

2017-18 and 2018-19 ECPN Officers at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Houston: (left to right) Rebecca Gridley, Kari Rayner, Marci Jefcoat Burton, Jen Munch, and Quinn Morgan Ferris
2017-18 and 2018-19 ECPN Officers at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Houston: (left to right) Rebecca Gridley, Kari Rayner, Marci Jefcoat Burton, Jen Munch, and Quinn Morgan Ferris

Meet the 2018-19 Officers:

Kari Rayner, Chair

Kari graduated with a BA in Art History and a second major in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University. She holds an MA in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Art Conservation with a specialization in paintings conservation from the Conservation Center, the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Kari interned during her graduate studies at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, Germany; and Modern Art Conservation in New York, NY. She completed a post-graduate internship at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge University from 2015-2016 and has since returned to the National Gallery of Art as a Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation. Kari previously served ECPN as Vice Chair (2017-18) and Webinar Coordinator (2016-17).

Evelyn (Eve) Mayberger, Vice Chair

Eve holds a B.A. in Art History with a concentration in Asian Art from Wesleyan University (2010). In 2016, Eve graduated with a M.A. and M.S. degrees in art history and conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University where she specialized in objects conservation. She has worked in the conservation departments of the Olin Library at Wesleyan University, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Historic Odessa Foundation, Small Collections Library at the University of Virginia, National Museum of the American Indian, Worcester Art Museum, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (fourth-year internship). In addition to museum work, Eve has participated in excavations at Sardis (Turkey), Selinunte (Sicily), Abydos (Egypt), and el Kurru (Sudan). Currently, Eve is the Mellon Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She previously served for ECPN as Outreach Co-Officer (2016-18).

Kat Fanning, Professional Education and Training Co-Officer

Kat is currently a Preservation Associate and Archivist at the Center for Jewish History. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Chemistry from Southern Connecticut State University. Kat completed her MSLIS with certification in Conservation and Digital Curation from Pratt Institute’s School of Information in December of 2017, and was awarded the Pratt Circle and Outstanding Merit awards. This will be Kat’s second year serving ECPN.

Quinn Morgan Ferris, Professional Education and Training Co-Officer

Quinn is the Senior Conservator for Special Collections at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign. She started there as the Rare Book Conservator in 2016, where she continues to be responsible for the conservation treatment of rare and unique bound library materials. She is also an adjunct lecturer at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. Quinn was an Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in Library and Archives Conservation, and graduated with a MA in Arts History and an Advanced Certificate in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center. Quinn has been a member of AIC as well as the Guild of Book Workers since 2011. This will be her first year serving ECPN.

Jen Munch, Webinar Coordinator

Jen holds a BFA in Fine Art, awarded jointly by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University. Jen is currently a graduate fellow in the Buffalo State program in Art Conservation, specializing in the conservation of paintings. Jen has interned or worked in the conservation departments of The Phillips Collection, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, the private practice Rika Smith-McNally and Associates, and the Conservation & Maintenance Program of the Cambridge, MA Arts Council.

This summer, Jen is conserving easel paintings and John LaFarge murals within the private practice Gianfranco Pocobene Studios. In the Fall, Jen will begin a year-long graduate internship at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. This is Jen’s second year serving as ECPN’s Webinar Coordinator. Previously, Jen served as an ECPN Regional Liaison to Boston (2015-16).

Caitlin Richeson, Outreach Co-Officer

Caitlin holds a BFA in Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2012). She is currently a graduate fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, majoring in objects conservation with a minor in preventive conservation. She has completed internships or contracting work with Glenstone, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Navel History and Heritage Command’s Archaeology and Conservation Lab. Currently, she is completing a summer internship with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which will be followed by internships at the Stedelijk Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. This is Caitlin’s second year serving as the Outreach Co-officer.

Marci Jefcoat Burton, Outreach Co-Officer

Marci Jefcoat Burton holds a BA in Forensic Chemistry and a Minor in Art History from California State University, Sacramento, and she graduated with an MA in Conservation from the UCLA/Getty Conservation of Archeological and Ethnographic Materials program in 2018. Marci is currently interning with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum). Other experience includes the technical analysis of synthetic polymeric materials with the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), treatment of polyurethane (PUR) foam with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM), as well as the research and treatment of painting, textile, paper, photograph, and ethnographic objects with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, and various private conservators in San Francisco.

J. Riley Cruttenden, Communications Co-Officer

Riley holds a B.F.A. in Sculpture from Ohio State University (OSU). After working with Blick Art Materials, Riley returned to OSU as a graduate teaching associate in the history of architecture while pursuing pre-requisites for art conservation. At OSU Riley also worked to coordinate undergraduate research events for the university and contributed to research in mass spectrometry with the Badu Research Group. In 2017 Riley graduated from the University of Glasgow master’s program in Technical Art History, where he was the recipient of a 2016-17 US-UK Fulbright Award. He has completed internships with Ohio State University Libraries, the Glasgow School of Art, the Rijksmuseum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. He is currently a pre-program intern based in Columbus, Ohio.

Candace Kang, Communications Co-Officer

Candace holds a B.A. in the History of Art with a Museums Concentration from Smith College. She is currently a Conservation Technician for Special Collections at the Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center, and has completed internships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As an undergraduate, she worked extensively in the frame conservation lab of the Smith College Museum of Art and has treated historic frames from a variety of collections across New England, including the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Previously, Candace served as the Boston Regional Liaison for ECPN.

AIC Board and AIC Staff Liaisons:

Molly Gleeson, AIC Board Director for Professional Education

Molly is the Schwartz Project Conservator at the Penn Museum. Since 2012 Molly has worked in the museum’s open conservation lab, “The Artifact Lab: Conservation in Action.” In the Artifact Lab, she treats artifacts in full public view, interacts with museum visitors daily, blogs about the ongoing work in the lab, and regularly gives presentations about conservation. In addition to the outreach in the Artifact Lab, Molly is currently working as a project conservator for the Penn Museum’s Egyptian Galleries reinstallation project. Molly completed her M.A. in 2008 at the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. Molly is a Professional Associate member of AIC and has been the Board Director for Professional Education since 2017. She previously served as a co-chair of the Archaeological Discussion Group (ADG) from 2016-2018 and as the Chair of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) from 2011-2013.

Kate Lee, AIC Outreach Coordinator

Katelin joined the AIC team in May 2015 and after roles in meetings, membership, and marketing, now serves as FAIC’s Outreach Coordinator. She promotes awareness of the conservation field within the public and provides membership with opportunities to reach new audiences. She also manages AIC’s social media presence and assists with content creation, development, advertising sales, and community management. Katelin has experience in a variety of fields, including technology research, textile and garment design, and elementary education. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a BA in History and Theatre and holds a master’s degree from New York University in Visual Culture and Costume Studies. This is her third year serving as ECPN’s staff liaison.

Sincere thanks once again to ECPN’s 2017-18 officers, who have shown great dedication, effort, and teamwork in furthering ECPN’s mission this past term! We have a number of new initiatives we will be pursuing further during the 2018-19 term, and we hope that our ongoing projects will continue to provide valuable resources for pre-program candidates, graduate students, and emerging conservation professionals.

ECPN Interviews: Wooden Artifacts Conservation with Caite Sofield

To promote awareness and a clearer understanding of different pathways into specializations that require particular training, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) has been conducting a series of interviews with conservation professionals in various specialties. We began the series with Chinese and Japanese painting conservation and continued the series by focusing on practitioners working with Electronic Media. Now, we are interviewing conservation professionals working in AIC’s Wooden Artifact Group (WAG). These conservators work with various wooden objects, which can range from furniture, musical instruments, waterlogged wood, frames, and more! We’ve asked our interviewees to share some thoughts about their career paths, hoping to inspire new conservation professionals and provide valuable insight into these areas of our professional field.

In our first interview from the WAG series, we spoke with Caite Sofield, a third year fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). Caite is specializing in Furniture Conservation, and she is also a graduate intern in Furniture Conservation at The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). She received a Bachelor of Art in Italian Studies from Ithaca College, with a double minor in Art History and Classical Studies.

ECPN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Caite Sofield (CS):  I am a third year graduate fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), specializing in Furniture Conservation. I am completing my internship year in Furniture Conservation at The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).  I graduated from Ithaca with a B.A. in Italian Studies, and a double minor in Art History and Classical Studies. I grew up in New Hampshire and did much of my pre-program work in the New England area.

ECPN: How were you first introduced to conservation, and why did you decide to pursue conservation?

CS: My first introduction to conservation was during an undergraduate internship in London at the Leighton House Museum. Organized through the Art History Department of Ithaca College, my internship was divided between assisting the Curator of Collections and Research and working with a Conservation Cleaner in the Linley Sanbourne House, a historic property also managed by LHM.  I found this work dynamic and compelling, and was surprised to discover that I learned as much (if not more) about history from working in the house and on the objects than I did in my associated art history course. I was so excited to connect with history in this tangible way, and I knew that I wanted to seek similar experiences in the future.

ECPN: Of all specializations, what contributed to your decision to pursue furniture conservation?

CS: Furniture conservation appealed to me because furniture, as a subsection of decorative arts, can include a wide variety of materials, and there is a wonderful overlap between architecture, textiles, and objects. I love seeing the way the intended function of an object affects its design and how that changes over time. I am particularly fond of the forms that are highly specific and representative of a small window in time, like the voyeuse of the 18th century and the telephone table of the 20th century.

ECPN: What has been your training pathway?  Please list any universities, apprenticeships, technical experience, and any related jobs or hobbies.

CS: After my introduction to conservation in my junior year at Ithaca College, I began researching conservation programs and the prerequisites. I was only one course away from completing my degree requirements in Italian Studies at the time, so I used my available electives to start checking off the required courses I hadn’t taken yet, including the studio art and chemistry courses.  In my senior year, the heads of the Chemistry and Art History departments teamed up to teach a course called Chemistry and Art. This was a great overview of how much science affects art and gave me great perspective on why I needed to take chemistry courses to continue in the conservation field.

I continued working through the pre-reqs by completing non-degree coursework at St. Anselm College and the University of New Hampshire, near my hometown, while working as a veterinary assistant part-full time. Because I knew I was interested in furniture conservation, I sought out woodworking courses to fill the 3-dimensional design requirements. I did weekend and evening workshops, and a 10-week Furniture Making Intensive at the Homestead Woodworking School in Newmarket, NH.  Later in my pre-program path, I took the 12-week Furniture Intensive at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, ME.

My first pre-program internship was in the furniture lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. After that, I worked on an Asian lacquer project and outdoor sculpture at the Preservation Society of Newport County.  I volunteered at the New Hampshire Historical Society for a few months, documenting and re-housing embroidery samplers.  I returned to Newport for another six months to continue work on the outdoor sculpture project. My final pre-program internship was at the Collections Conservation Branch of the National Park Service.

While in the WUDPAC program, I have interned at the Furniture/Wooden Artifacts Lab of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and worked on archaeological documentation of furniture and architectural fragments of the Swedish battleship, Vasa, at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.

ECPN: Are there any particular skills that you feel are important or unique to your discipline? Can one solely be a ‘wooden artifact conservator,’ or is knowledge of composites and how to treat other materials inherent to the work?

CS: Knowledge of wood science and woodworking skills are hugely important to furniture conservation, as wood is the predominant material you will come across on a day-to-day basis.  I suppose one could solely be a ‘wooden artifact conservator’ if the collection needs supported it, but I am really interested in furniture more broadly, and for that, you need to have a working knowledge of other materials and surface techniques (ie: gilding, metals, leather and other organics, and stone). Because of the diverse materials a furniture conservator can encounter, I have actively sought out institutions with encyclopedic collections or projects that may indirectly relate to furniture to broaden my exposure.

ECPN: What are some of your current projects, research, or interests?

CS: I am working on two painted architectural panels from a period room at the PMA, which comprises painted wall paneling from a 17th century Parisian house.  They were removed from exhibition so that we could replace degrading 1950’s era silk wall coverings. Upon deinstallation, we discovered that one panel had structural damage from weakened wood around an undocumented repair. In addition to the treatment, the curator would also like to have some technical analysis completed to begin the process of researching all of the painted paneling in the room.  One of my favorite parts of working in an active lab in a very busy museum is that there are always new and interesting projects coming through or unexpectedly popping up!

One wall of the gallery with the degrading silk (left). The same wall with the new fabric and trim. (right). [Photos: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]
One wall of the gallery with the degrading silk (left). The same wall with the new fabric and trim. (right). [Photos: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]

ECPN: In your opinion, what is an important research area or need in your specialization?

CS: As I mentioned before, I am fascinated by the way that function affects design in the furniture field but also how changes in technology influenced changes in design.  I love how the use of tubular steel in the Bauhaus movement revolutionized furniture production and how the development of foam technologies all but eliminated tradition horsehair and sprung upholstery. There has been plenty of research into the care and treatment of these materials, but it’s an area that I personally would like to explore further.

One of the small panels taken down for treatment and technical examination. [Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]
One of the small panels taken down for treatment and technical examination. [Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]
ECPN: Do you have any advice for prospective emerging conservators who would like to pursue this specialization?

CS: That is a tough question. In most regards furniture conservation is like any other specialty, but I think one thing I’ve learned is the value of trying other things and all specialties.  As I reflect on my pre-program experience and approach the end of my graduate program, I am struck by how each of my classmates thrive in their respective specialties; what seems routine for them is awe-inspiring for me, and vice versa.  By exploring other specialties (and other career paths) I have found an area that fits.  I love historic costumes, but thread counts and invisible stitches make my head hurt. I had a blast working on outdoor sculpture, but the science of stone is really confusing to me.  When I talk about a structural repair, or I am dealing with tented veneers, my classmates are overwhelmed.  But, by working in different specialties and learning as much as I can within the field, I can appreciate the skill and knowledge of others and know where to look, or to whom to turn, when I run into a material with which I am less familiar.

ECPN: Please share any last thoughts or reflections.

CS: I found it very useful to have woodworking experience before I started the WUDPAC program.  It is no longer a requirement of admission as a furniture major, nor do you have to declare a major at the time of admission; however, if it something you are drawn to, having some of those skills in hand will be advantageous down the line. One doesn’t have to be a master craftsman to conserve objects, but a working knowledge of techniques and troubleshooting will only help in care and treatment decisions.


*Featured image: Caite during the installation of new fabric in the gallery. [Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]




ECPN Profile on Riley the Museum Dog at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ECPN had the opportunity to speak with Nicki Luongo, head of Protective Services at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to learn more about a very special four-legged volunteer at the MFA.

Riley the Museum Dog

1. Riley-the-dog-at-the-Museum-of-Fine-Arts-Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


· Occupation: MFA Volunteer

· Credentials: American Kennel Club S.T.A.R. Puppy program graduate

· Birthday: October 14, 2017

· Ear length: 5”

· Favorite MFA artwork: Hugo and Brenda! (Pair of Great Danes, 1907 by Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington. On view in the Calderwood Courtyard)

· Favorite pastime: Rope tug

4. Riley-the-dog-at-the-Museum-of-Fine-Arts-Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


ECPN: How did the idea to hire a dog come about in the first place, and does Riley have any special qualities that might make him better than other dogs at helping with integrated pest management (IPM)?

Nicki Luongo (NL): Discussions between the Conservation and the Department of Protective Services began in fall 2017. Weimaraners are very intelligent and have an incredible sense of smell. Riley’s duties as a scent dog at the MFA are well suited to his breed!

ECPN: Have you trained dogs for service or nose work before?

NL: In my spare time I’ve trained working K9’s for many years, so it’s exciting to be able to apply these training skills with Riley to work with the MFA’s conservation team.

ECPN: How many hours a week is Riley expected to be “on duty”?

NL: Once Riley’s completed his training, he’ll be on duty as needed.

 ECPN: Who cares for Riley on his off-hours? And what are his favorite activities outside of “work”?

NL: Riley lives with me and loves to play hide and seek, rope tug and nap in his free time.

ECPN: How does Riley’s role fit into the MFA’s larger IPM strategy? What other IPM tactics does the MFA currently employ and how will Riley’s role supplement and enhance these protocols?

NL: In addition to the current conservation protocols we have in place, Riley will act as an additional layer in protecting the Museum’s collection. His extremely sensitive nose can be trained to detect the presence of pests that are hidden from plain view.


7. Riley-the-dog-at-the-Museum-of-Fine-Arts-Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


ECPN would like to extend sincere thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for the paw-some opportunity to learn more about Riley. For more information on Riley, visit his page on the MFA’s website: https://www.mfa.org/about/riley-the-museum-dog

Call for Participation: New Annual Meeting Event “A Failure Shared is Not a Failure”

AIC members from all specialty groups are invited to attend and participate in the event “A failure shared is not a failure: learning from our mistakes,” happening on Saturday, June 2nd, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — click here to add it to your Sched. We will gather and share our cautionary tales, including treatment errors, mishaps, and accidents, with the idea of helping our colleagues not to repeat them.

Discussing mistakes is a hot topic that has already been embraced by others in our community. Two examples of events scheduled during the month of May are: “Mistakes were made,” a regular feature at the American Alliance of Museums conference, and the lecture “Conservation Confidential” hosted by our conservation colleagues across the pond in the Independent Paper Conservators’ Group.

Participants can speak for up to 5 minutes; if you prefer to remain anonymous, a reader will be happy to present your tale on your behalf. If you are unable to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting but would like to submit a tale to be read by one of our organizers or a colleague, please reach out.

Screens to project PowerPoint slides containing your images/video will be available (16:9 format), and a Dropbox folder will be made available for submissions. Please also bring your presentation on a USB Drive (highly encouraged). Time permitting, audience members inspired by their colleagues will be welcome to present. If appropriate (and acceptable to the speaker), the floor will be opened for questions and discussion following presentations. Extra points for suggesting safeguards and solutions!

Please note that this is a forum for sharing personal mistakes and solutions only. Participants are requested not to name other persons, organizations, work places, and avoid politics—institutional, national, and global!

The event will include a cash bar, so come, relax, unwind, share, laugh, groan, and learn. We plan to publish the event for those who wish to be included.

If you are interested in participating or have questions about the event, please contact Tony Sigel at tony_sigel@harvard.edu or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at rebecca.ec.gridley@gmail.com by May 10th.

Please include 2-3 quick sentences introducing your topic and indicate whether you plan to use a PowerPoint with images and/or video.

See you in Houston!

ECPN Spring Webinar Announcement: Lights, Camera, (Preventive) Action! Careers in Preventive Conservation

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is pleased to announce our upcoming webinar, “Lights, Camera, (Preventive) Action! Careers in Preventive Conservation” taking place on Thursday April 26th from 12:30-1:30 pm EDT.

Preventive conservation is an integral part of many cultural heritage jobs, encompassing any actions meant to minimize the deterioration of collections. But what does this look like in practice, exactly? And how is this role addressed in conservation training? Find out in this webinar, which will feature an introduction to the concept of preventive conservation and highlight potential career paths into this vital specialization.

ECPN has invited three speakers to provide their perspectives on this topic.  Dr. Joelle Wickens, Preventive Conservator for Winterthur Museum, Gardens & Library and Associate Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), will provide an overview of preventive conservation activities, skills, and training. This will be followed by a facilitated discussion in which Jessica Pace, Preventive Conservator at New York University Libraries, and Jamie Gleason, Associate Preventive Conservator at the National Gallery of Art, will touch on their own career pathways into this conservation specialty and their own roles and responsibilities at their respective institutions. 

ECPN is seeking questions for the facilitated discussion session with our speakers. To submit your questions in advance, please post in the comments section below or send them via email to ecpn.webinar@conservation-us.org. Questions will be accepted until the morning of the webinar, or can be submitted during the presentations via the GoToWebinar platform.

Attendance is free and open to all AIC members. Please register here to watch the webinar. If you are unable to view the program on April 26, or are not a member of AIC, the full video will be recorded and uploaded onto the AIC YouTube Channel following the broadcast.

Please see below to learn more about our speakers:

Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens is Preventive Conservator for Winterthur Museum, Gardens & Library and Associate Director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). She received her Ph.D. in Conservation and MA in Textile Conservation from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, and BA in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania, USA. Joelle’s current research includes: the development of techniques that quantify and mitigate outside light in a manner sympathetic to the historic house environment; devising accessible and sustainable storage practices for museums with limited staff; the development of materials and courses for the teaching of preventive conservation.

Jessica Pace is the Preventive Conservator at New York University Libraries.  She received her MA in Art History and CAS in Conservation from the Conservation Center at NYU, and her BA in Art History and Visual Arts from Barnard College.  Prior to this role, she worked in objects conservation at the Brooklyn Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis in Turkey.  Her current projects include devising accessible and economical housing for archival collections, creating training programs in preventive techniques for librarians and archivists, and improving housing and handling of materials during transport.

Jamie Gleason is the Associate Preventive Conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He earned his MA (CAS) in Object Conservation from Buffalo State College in 2013, and a BA in Art History from the State University of New York at Albany. Jamie began his career at the National Gallery as the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Object Conservation, moving to the Gallery’s newly formed Preventive Conservation Department in 2015. He has worked at museums and cultural institutions across the United States. Before pursuing his interest in conservation, Jamie worked as a picture framer for seven years.

2018-2019 Open Officer Positions for the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network: Call for Applications

Are you an emerging conservation professional who wants to advocate for the issues that matter most to you and your peers? Do you want to help AIC develop resources and programs specifically for early-career conservators, conservation scientists, and collections care specialists? If so, please consider applying for one of the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network’s (ECPN) open officer positions! To learn more about the network, please visit the ECPN page on the American Institute for Conservation website. Our Network description, charge, and current leadership can be found here.

ECPN is currently accepting applications from pre-program individuals, graduate students, and recent graduates for the following positions:

  • Vice Chair
  • Professional Education and Training Officer
  • Outreach Officer
  • Communications Officer

Please see the following document for position descriptions: 2018-ECPN_Open_Position_Descriptions. All positions will serve a two-year term beginning June 2018, just after AIC’s 46th Annual Meeting.

The Vice Chair is expected serve a one-year term, transitioning to Chair for an additional one-year term. No previous ECPN experience is necessary to apply. The current ECPN Vice Chair, Kari Rayner, is available to discuss this position over email or the phone.

Please direct questions to Kari Rayner at ecpn.aic.vicechair@gmail.com. To apply for an open officer position, please submit a brief statement of interest and your resume to Kari by April 13, 2018.

ECPN Mentor Project with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

If you attended the AIC Member Business Meeting at last year’s 45th Annual Meeting in Chicago, you learned about some of the initiatives our colleagues have been involved in to increase diversity in the field. Last year, ECPN became directly involved with one of these initiatives, a collaboration with WUDPAC, Yale, and the Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries (HBCU = historically black colleges and universities).

Just to provide some quick background to ECPN’s involvement – in the winter of 2016, members of the HBCU Alliance of Museums & Galleries, AIC, ANAGPIC, the Smithsonian, WUDPAC and Yale University, met to propose ways of engaging underrepresented students in the field of cultural heritage. This meeting was initiated, organized, and led by Dr. Caryl McFarlane, an independent diversity consultant, and strongly supported by Dr. Jontyle Robinson, Curator of the Tuskegee Legacy Museum and CEO of the HBCU Alliance of Museums and Galleries. 

One result of this meeting was the development of two programs which occurred back-to-back last summer (summer 2017): Yale University’s HBCU Students, Teachers and Mentors Program and the University of Delaware’s TIP-C or Two-week Introduction to Practical Conservation. For more information on these programs, make sure to follow the links included here. 

Mentoring was identified as an important component for these initiatives, so the HBCU program leaders reached out to ECPN, and ECPN identified and solicited mentors for a pilot mentoring program. Based on recommendations from ECPN and a survey of the mentors, matches were made to pair the 11 TIP-C students with conservation professionals. ECPN also created resources for both the mentors and the 11 TIP-C students, which included useful links and resources and a suggested reading list. The mentoring period began at the end of last summer, and is wrapping up this spring.

ECPN is currently working with Dr. McFarlane, Yale, and WUDPAC to facilitate the TIP-C students’ attendance at the 2018 AIC annual meeting pre-session: “Whose Cultural Heritage? Whose Conservation Strategy?”. This pre-session, taking place on May 30th, is AIC’s first symposium on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in cultural heritage preservation. Students will also be encouraged to attend the Untold StoriesStorytelling as Preservation” program, which immediately follows the pre-session.

Attending these programs at the AIC annual meeting this year will not only be an opportunity for the students to learn more about conservation and to experience attending a large professional meeting, but it will also allow some of the students to connect in-person with their mentors for the first time! It has been a privilege for me to be involved in this program, both in my role as a mentor as well as in my role as the AIC Board Director of Professional Education and the Board Liaison to ECPN.

We hope to feature at least one student from this program on the blog later this year, so stay tuned for more information.

ECPN Interviews: International Training, Conservation of Cultural Heritage at The University of Lincoln

This blog post series will look at United States citizens who trained abroad and are currently practicing conservation in the US. The goal of these interviews is twofold: to provide pre-program students with a starting point for understanding international training through a range of student perspectives and to bring awareness of overseas conservation training programs to conservators practicing in the United States. It is the hope that the discussion of international training will answer questions and start an open dialog of the challenges and benefits of training abroad.

This blog series takes the form of interviews with established and emerging conservators who have trained abroad. Each interviewee offers their personal and professional perspective. So, while themes are apparent throughout these interviews, no single interview can summarize all the challenges and rewards of international training.

These interviews do not reflect the opinions of AIC or the training programs being discussed. The series has been created to reflect a range of experiences, and the personal accounts will not reflect the views of all students from any specific program.


What is Your Name, Specialty and Current position?

 My name is Sean Belair. I am an Assistant Conservator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Arms and Armor. I am an objects conservator, but I have primarily specialized in the conservation of arms, armor, and related material.


Why did you pick your specialty?

My specialty picked me. Since I was a child, I have always had an interest in the Middle Ages, material history, and archaeology in general. I also loved making things and working with my hands. Until I discovered conservation, I always thought those would be separate pursuits. Arms and armor conservation combines my greatest passions into a single profession.


Can you describe your training pathway?

 I went to college to study Medieval and Renaissance history. While searching for history internships for my sophomore summer, I came across a pre-program internship in the conservation of arms and armor at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. On day one of this internship, I knew conservation was the career for me.

The conservator I worked with at the Higgins had started twenty years prior and trained on the job; many people he had worked with during that time had not gone through a conservation program, either. Believing the ‘apprentice’ route was the best way to achieve my goals, I continued to pursue pre-program internships. By the time I realized that you could no longer become a conservator without an MA, I was already into my junior year. As a history major, there was no way I could meet the course requirements for the US programs without essentially getting another BA. Another conservator, who now happens to be the Met’s Armorer and my direct supervisor, recommended I look into programs abroad, as he had received an MSc in archaeological conservation from University College London.

When I was looking at programs in England, the University of Lincoln jumped out. Lincoln focuses on the conservation of historic objects, as opposed to archaeology or fine arts, and they take hands-on training very seriously. Students start treating objects their first week.

The general philosophy of the program is that graduates will probably go on to work in, or for, the historic houses of the UK and should be prepared to work on every type of material inside the house, including the building itself. Lincoln has a commercial wing that specializes in historic interiors. While I wanted to focus on metal objects specifically, arms and armor, like many museum objects, are mixed-media. All programs address mixed-media, but I felt that at Lincoln it was a major part of the curriculum.

The University of Lincoln’s library, which was converted from the Great Central Warehouse (b 1907)

The Lincoln program was also a two year program. Lincoln has a BA program, so the MA is only one additional year if you have done the undergraduate training. For people who received a BA in other fields, like me, they offer a one year Graduate Diploma course to catch you up with the MA. So, in two years (1 year GD + 1 year MA) I walked away with an MA in objects conservation, whereas similar programs required three years. In my mind, I was able to enter the workforce a year earlier, with a year’s less tuition. As I had hands-on pre-program experience and had taken the “Chemistry for Conservators” correspondence course, I didn’t feel like I would be overwhelmed by the condensed program or unprepared after graduation.

After Lincoln, I worked on outdoor sculpture for the New York City Parks Department, first as a summer intern, then staying on for another major project. It was during this time I applied for a Summer Graduate Internship in Arms and Armor Conservation at the Met, which I was awarded.

After a year of semi-employment and volunteering, I was awarded a Met Fellowship in Arms and Armor Conservation, which was subsequently renewed for another year. Just before the end of my second fellowship, our senior conservator (The Armorer) announced his retirement after 43 years with the museum. His retirement created an opening in the department, which I gratefully filled.


What were the advantages of your program of choice: Personal/Professional

I feel the ‘historic house’ approach, stressing mixed-media objects, has thoroughly prepared me for my career. In my work I have come across some very unusual combinations of materials and conditions, and I have never felt unprepared. I can’t say I’ve always known the right treatment or course of action, but I’ve always known where to start, and more importantly, when to stop.

While Lincoln wants you to be prepared for everything, they are very accommodating of specialties. One student, for example, chose to specialize in restoring ship models, and the lecturers found models for him to treat; another classmate decided she wanted to focus on textiles, so one of the lecturers built her a suction-table out of Cor-X, duct tape, and a vacuum. Both students went on to work in their chosen specialty.

Lincoln Cathedral photographed from the ramparts of Lincoln Castle
Lincoln Cathedral photographed from the ramparts of Lincoln Castle

The program did a particularly good job of preparing students to deal with display and storage environments. The course anticipates students will be working in unideal conditions with limited resources and teaches the students to find creative solutions to stabilizing environments. To reinforce the lectures and readings, all MA’s must do a survey of a historic structure in Lincoln including monitoring temperature, humidity, and light-levels through changing seasons, and make recommendations on improving the stability of the environment.

While I attended Lincoln, we were in an 18th century former hospital turned seminary, turned lab. It was atmospheric, but cramped and poorly laid out. The program has since moved into a brand new building shared with the art department. The lecturers were able to custom design the conservation space before construction even began. I was able to visit a couple of years ago, and it is a beautiful facility. The students also have access to the new art studios and have designated times where they are encouraged to practice manufacturing techniques like jewelry making and carpentry.

The tuition for the program is less than at other universities, and the cost of living in Lincoln is low. Additionally, Lincoln is only a two-year program instead of three, further reducing cost.


What were the disadvantages of your program of choice: Personal/Professional

 I would say that one disadvantage is that Lincoln is a young program. Most conservators have heard of it, but it does not yet carry the cache of University College London or New York University. Being a young program also means there are fewer Lincoln alumni to network with, particularly in the US; where, to my knowledge, I am the only Lincoln alum.

Sean buffing a cuirass by Kolman Helmschmid prior to publication photography.
Sean buffing a cuirass by Kolman Helmschmid prior to publication photography.

While the two-year program worked for me, it might not be right for everyone. The structure only provides the summer between the GD and the MA to have a placement/internship before graduation. If you do not have any pre-program experience, then you are putting a lot of pressure on that one summer for building your resume and portfolio.

Of course, two years studying in England is two years away from friends and family. I was fortunate to have a very supportive girlfriend, now wife, and things like Skype and FaceTime make the distance easier, but it is still distance. That said, away is away, regardless of the country. I can’t say attending Buffalo, at the opposite end of my home state, would have been much easier than Lincoln.

There is, of course, the financial component. Going to school in England is not free and flights are expensive. It made sense for me because I wouldn’t have been eligible for the endowed American programs without spending significant time and money continuing to take undergraduate classes.


What advice do you have for pre-programmers considering a similar path

Picking a program is an important decision; you will spend several years there, after all, but it will not make or break your career. Your career will be defined by equal of parts hard work and dumb luck – comforting, I know. So my advice isn’t about picking a program, but planning ahead.

Start working on your portfolio as soon as possible. This will be what defines you to a potential employer. Get a good camera if you can and learn to take well-lit, in-focus pictures (though I’ve gotten good pictures with just my iPhone). Take lots of photos of everything you work on, and have other people take photos of every type of activity you perform. A portfolio or website is only as strong as the images it contains, and it is very easy to forget to take them or inadvertently get bad photos; either way, you will be pulling your hair out when you’re trying to put your material together.

A potential employer will Google you, so having a website and/or a ‘curated’ social media feed is a great way to promote yourself. I never made a website, but I believe it will be a must-have going forward.




Introducing Untold Stories

I’m delighted and excited to introduce Untold Stories, a project aimed at pursuing an art conservation profession that represents and preserves a fuller spectrum of human cultural heritage. With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Untold Stories’ mission is “to expand the existing ethical framework for art conservation by engaging new voices and hearing new stories that transform our understanding of the preservation of cultural heritage. We seek to recognize and conserve a broader range of cultural heritages; embrace a more diverse set of conservation practices and practitioners; and affirm the deep emotional connection between objects and sites of cultural heritage and the communities that claim them.”

Untold Stories will pursue this mission by engaging the voices of visionary leaders and thinkers within the arts, cultural heritage and allied fields whose work offers transformative approaches to storytelling, representation and preservation. Between 2018 and 2020, Untold Stories will hold public events at each of the next three annual meetings of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works featuring thought-provoking conversations with artists, arts administrators, activists, poets and scholars. All events will be professionally videographed and made available on the project site soon after they take place.

The 2018 AIC meeting in Houston will feature a panel discussion on “storytelling as preservation” with Deana Haggag, President and CEO of United States Artists, MacArthur award winning artist Rick Lowe, and queer migrant poet and cultural organizer and activist Sonia Guiñansaca. This event is free and will be held on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018, from 4:30 to 6pm at the conference hotel. (For more information, please visit https://www.untoldstories.live/houston-2018/). This event is also now listed in the AIC Program.

Another key component of Untold Stories is to create paid opportunities for emerging professionals to assume leadership roles in the development and implementation of the project’s programming. The project is currently seeking two assistants for 2018. Any interested conservation students or recent graduates of a program are invited to apply. The deadline for applications is January 20th.

Thank you all for your support, and see you in Houston!

Sanchita Balachandran
Project Director, Untold Stories

ECPN Interviews: Electronic Media Conservation with Christine Frohnert

To promote awareness and a clearer understanding of different pathways into specializations that require particular training, The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is conducting a series of interviews with conservation professionals in these specialties. We kicked off the series with Chinese and Japanese Painting conservation, and now we are focusing on Electronic Media Conservation (EMG). These conservators work with time-based media, which is characterized by artwork with durational elements, such as slide, film, and video, analog or born-digital materials, performance, light or kinetic art, sound or software-based art. We’ve asked our interviewees to share some thoughts about their career paths, which we hope will inspire new conservation professionals and provide valuable insight into these areas of our professional field.

In the first interviews for this series, we spoke with emerging conservators starting in the early stages of their careers working in time-based media, which included Alexandra Nichols, Nicholas Kaplan, Brian Castriota and Yasmin Desssem. In this interview, we hear from Christine Frohnert, a conservator who graduated in 2003 from the University of Arts in Berne, Switzerland, where she majored in the Conservation of Modern Materials and Media. Prior to establishing a private practice for Time-based Media (TBM) with colleague Reinhard Bek, Christine served as chief conservator at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany for twelve years and as chair of the AIC Electronic Media Group from 2008-2012. In 2012, she was named the inaugural Judith Praska Distinguished Visiting Professor in Conservation and Technical Studies at the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (CC/IFA/NYU), where she now serves as the Time-based Media Art Conservation Curriculum Development Program Coordinator.


Christine Frohnert and Reinhard Bek [Photo: Reinhard Bek]
Christine Frohnert and Reinhard Bek [Photo: Reinhard Bek]
ECPN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current position.

Christine Frohnert (CF): I am a conservator of contemporary art with a specific focus on technology-based art. Reinhard Bek and I founded Bek & Frohnert LLC in NYC in 2012- a conservation studio in private practice specializing in the conservation of time-based media (TBM). We are both German, have been trained in Europe, worked in leading positions in museums, and have been involved in international research projects.

Bek and I focus on the conservation of artworks with a durational element in our practice—such as sound, moving image, performance, light, or movement, that unfolds to the viewer over time via slide, film, video, software, or the internet. Since the studio’s inauguration, we have responded to individual needs for both TBM conservation treatments and consulting requests. However, over the last several years, we have experienced a rising demand to serve as consultants for different U.S. institutions without time-based media conservators on staff, as well as for collectors and artists. As many TBM art collecting institutions are facing rapidly increasing needs to adequately acquire, preserve, exhibit and store TBM works, we are responding to this development and our work is more geared towards long-term collection care and the development of preservation plans, as well as education.

ECPN: How were you first introduced to conservation, what contributed to your decision to specialize in time-based media, and why has been your training pathway?

CF: As with most of my colleagues, I started conservation being exposed to more traditional media such as paintings and sculpture. About 20 years ago, I realized that technology-based artworks can be seriously harmed or lost without a new conservation specialty being established. I became fascinated with TBM, and I learned about the newly established program ‘Conservation of Modern Materials and Media’ at the University of Arts, Berne, Switzerland. I graduated from there in 2003.

ECPN: Are there any particular skills that you feel are important or unique to your discipline?

Christine Frohnert [Photo: Marlies Peller]
Christine Frohnert [Photo: Marlies Peller]
CF: A complex range of skill sets are needed, which should be solidly grounded in the conceptual framework of contemporary art conservation as a whole. It requires knowledge in electrics/electronics and programming, and an in-depth understanding of each media category, technology and its preservation, documentation and digital preservation needs. As our profession is highly collaborative by nature, soft skills are equally important to collaborate with all the stakeholders in the institutions involved, as well as with affiliated external professionals such as engineers, computer scientists, and technicians. This is important when defining, communicating, and verifying goals with vendors.

As many museums recently formed or are currently forming ‘Media Teams’ in their respective institutions to tackle their individual TBM collections needs, we have witnessed a rapidly increasing need for skilled labor, dedicated TBM lab space, equipment, and the trustworthy storage and management of huge amounts of born-digital or digitized artworks.

ECPN: What are some of your current projects, research, or interests?

CF: Currently our recent projects include consultation with several institutions to analyze their TBM collections and develop custom-designed conservation strategies according to their individual collections needs and skill sets of staff. These consultations may include surveys, assistance with media acquisitions, exhibitions and artwork documentation, storage, and migration. Bringing in external expertise often provides the bridge that many museums and their TBM stakeholders do not find in-house or do not have the capacity to coordinate. This work helps to identify and structure these needs more clearly and often provides the basis for institutional development and the implementation of larger collection care projects.

Recent and current treatment-based activities range from analyzing the ‘mechanical’ programming of a light-based work, the conservation of a seven channel-video wall from 1998 consisting of 207 Cathode Ray Tube monitors, digitization of analog video, and  the reverse engineering of custom-designed large format slide projectors, to name a few.

Cathode Ray Tube monitor [Photo: Marlies Peller
Cathode Ray Tube monitor [Photo: Marlies Peller]
ECPN: In your opinion, what is an important need in your specialization?

CF: the most pressing need is education. Technology-based art is considered to be very sensitive to damage, loss, misinterpretation, and incorrect installation, due to its very specific and sensitive relationship to time, space, and concept. Damage or loss of a TBM work cannot be seen by simply examining the physical material and may not be immediately apparent unless the individual has received specialized training.

TBM conservation has been identified as a priority by many museums, collectors, and funding agencies. However, the educational opportunities are still limited, and there is currently no U.S. graduate program offering a degree in this specialty (but this will change soon!). As a result, a huge amount of our most recent cultural heritage is at risk, in an unknown condition, and/or not sufficiently integrated into museums’ missions of collecting, exhibition, conservation, research, and education.

However, thanks to the generous funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, started the TBM art conservation curriculum planning project in 2016.The new TBM specialization will be integrated within its current curriculum starting in fall 2018. This will be the first conservation program offering this specialty in the U.S. and the graduates will receive a dual degree: an MS in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and an MA in the History of Art and Archaeology.

ECPN: Have you been involved in any advocacy, outreach, teaching or professional service roles in your specialization?

CF: During my time as EMG (Electronic Media Group) board Chair from 2008-2012, we received numerous request from the membership to offer continuing education opportunities, and in response EMG launched the conference series entitled TechFocus in 2010. The series is designed to provide hands-on guidance and systematic education on different media categories (TechFocus I: Caring for Video Art, Guggenheim Museum, NY, in 2010; TechFocus II: Caring for Film and Slide Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2012; TechFocus III: Caring for Software-based Art, Guggenheim Museum, NY, in 2015). In addition, the first periodical worldwide that focuses on TBM art conservation was launched by the EMG in 2012, The Electronic Media Review.

At the (CC/IFA/NYU) I have offered instruction in TBM conservation art in different capacities, including the course Art With A Plug: The Conservation of Artwork Containing Motion, Sound, Light, Moving Images and Interactivity (Fall 2012 and Spring 2015).

Several professional organizations and initiatives have created additional targeted educational opportunities and collaborations. However, despite all these good developments, further training is needed at the graduate level, as well as in continuing education for professionals, to address the fast-increasing demands of TBM conservation.

Under the leadership of Dr. Hannelore Roemich, Professor of Conservation Science and TBM program Director, I have also served as TBM Program Coordinator to assist in identifying skill sets and core competencies of TBM conservators that translate into the educational needs to develop a TBM curriculum. In the fall of 2016 the Conservation Center offered the course and public lecture series Topics in Time-based Media Art Conservation, which included ten lectures by leading art historians, artists, computer scientists, and conservators. These events were an important outreach component of the curriculum development project, and they created the opportunity to promote the field, foster the dialogue between TBM professionals, and build a community.

We are now organizing the upcoming symposium It’s About Time! Building a New Discipline: Time-based Media Art Conservation to be held in May 2018. The two-day symposium will provide a forum for educators, artists, art historians, museum curators and directors, collectors, gallerists, engineers, computer scientists, and conservators to promote TBM art conservation as a discipline on an international level and will conclude the TBM curriculum planning phase.

ECPN: Do you have any advice for prospective emerging conservators who would like to pursue this specialization?

Cathode Ray Tube monitor [Photo: Christine Frohnert]
Cathode Ray Tube monitor [Photo: Christine Frohnert]
CF: While I am not comfortable issuing general advice, I can say that I personally appreciate working with students and colleagues in our field, and that this has shaped and enriched my professional life. If you are a strong communicator who is interested in the intersection of art and technology, art conservation, and art history– and maybe you even have a background in one or more of the related media fields–why don’t you join the EMG sessions at the AIC annual meetings and/or attend the upcoming NYU symposium to engage with the TBM community and find out if this specialty may be just the right fit for you?

ECPN:  Please share any last thoughts or reflections.

CF: We currently see an extremely high demand for trained TBM conservators. This can be measured by the exponentially increasing job offers worldwide and the challenges many institutions face to find qualified candidates. So, it is safe to say that this is the best moment in time for becoming a TBM conservator in this country. If you are interested in pursuing a career in TBM conservation- check out the new TBM curriculum page at the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts at NYU.