Meet the Speakers! ECPN’s Upcoming Webinar on Preparing for Graduation Education in Art Conservation

ECPN’s next webinar, Beyond the Prerequisites: Preparing for Graduate Education in Art Conservation is quickly approaching! This Wednesday, July 16 at 12pm EDT, representatives from five of the North American graduate programs in art conservation will discuss what makes a strong applicant and ways you can grow as an emerging conservation professional.
You may have seen their names on the program websites, but we thought you might like to get to know the speakers a little better before the webinar. Each program representative has provided a short bio to help you become better acquainted!
And there is still time to register — just follow the link below. You will have a chance to submit questions for the Q&A session when you complete the registration form, but you can also send us your questions by leaving a comment on the ECPN Facebook page, or by commenting below on this blog post. You can also submit your questions via email to Megan Salazar-Walsh, ECPN Chair, at
Registration link:
Let’s meet the speakers!
Margaret Holben Ellis is the Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.  She also serves as Director, Thaw Conservation Center, The Morgan Library & Museum.  She is currently Vice-President and Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works of Art (AIC), Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC), Accredited Conservator/Restorer of the International Institute of Conservation (ICON).  Professional and academic awards have included the Caroline and Sheldon Keck Award (2003) for a sustained record of excellence in education, the Rutherford John Gettens Merit Award (1997) in recognition of outstanding service to the profession both conferred by the AIC, and a Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome (1994).  She has published and lectured on artists ranging from Raphael and Titian to Pollock and Lichtenstein with her research on artists materials similarly far-ranging.  She is a graduate of Barnard College (1975 B.A. art history, magna cum laude) and the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (1979 M.A. art history; Advanced Certificate in Conservation).
James Hamm has taught paintings conservation in the Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State since 1986. He earned his M.A. degree and Certificate of Advanced Studies in Art Conservation in 1978, in the earlier iteration of the Buffalo program operated by Sheldon and Caroline Keck, as part of the Cooperstown Graduate Programs. Between graduate school and the beginning of his tenure at Buffalo State, James and his wife Patricia Hamm (’75) operated a successful private practice near Albany, New York. Professor Hamm has an ongoing interest in authentication issues and the detection of fakes and forgeries in paintings. Working closely with colleagues in the department, he regularly examines paintings using modern imaging techniques and sophisticated methods of materials analysis, in conjunction with an educated eye, to address questions of age and authenticity. He also applies the knowledge gained from the study of art materials and the processes of their degradation, to the improvement of materials and techniques available to modern artists. As a part of this work, he was awarded a U.S. patent for a rigid painting support for artists and has recently developed a pigmented wax-resin system for filling losses in paintings and objects. He has lectured and published on a wide variety of conservation topics. In 2007, Professor Hamm was honored with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has supervised students who have become conservation professionals at museums all around this country and a few overseas, as well as those who have established successful private practices.
Rosaleen Hill is the Director of the Queen’s University Art Conservation Program. Prior to joining Queen’s University in 2013 she taught at the School of Library and Archival Studies at the University of British Columbia and in the Conservation of Cultural Materials program at the University of Canberra in Australia. Rosaleen has taught more than 40 workshops and seminars for conservator and allied professionals and has consulted widely for archives, museums, libraries and other heritage institutions.
Debra Hess Norris is chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware, director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and professor of photograph conservation. Debbie has taught more than 125 workshops and seminars for conservators and allied professionals globally including in Peru, Columbia, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Ireland, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Morocco, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and India. She has published over 35 articles and book chapters on the preservation of photographic materials, conservation education, ethics, and emergency planning. Debbie served as president of the American Institute for Conservation from 1993 – 1997 and chairperson of Heritage Preservation from 2003-2008. She currently serves on the boards of Heritage Preservation and the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, and the Advisory Committees for the FAIC Hermitage Photograph Conservation Initiative, the Mellon Collaborative Photograph Workshops, and the American Friends of the National Gallery of Denmark, among others.  In 2002, she was inducted into the University of Delaware’s Alumni Wall of Fame and in 2004 she was appointed as the Henry Francis duPont Chair of Fine Arts. She is a Fellow in the AIC and the International Institute for Conservation, and received the 2008 AIC University Products Award for distinguished achievement in the conservation of cultural property and the Caroline and Sheldon Keck Award for Teaching Excellence.
Ellen Pearlstein is one of the founding faculty and is associate professor at the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation, which accepted its first students in 2005. Beforehand, Ellen spent 22 years as a conservator at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City, and she taught classes at the Conservation Center of the IFA. Ellen teaches classes in organic materials conservation, conservation and ethnography, and preventive strategies at UCLA/Getty. Her research focuses on tribal museums and values for cultural preservation; effects of environmental agents on ethnographic and natural history materials (including understanding and preventing light damage in feather work); reinstating context for museum materials found ex situ; and curriculum development within conservation education.

We are looking forward to learning from this amazing group of conservation educators on Wednesday!  If you miss the webinar, it will be posted afterwards on the AIC YouTube channel.  Keep an eye out for an announcement when the link becomes available.

42nd Annual Meeting – Collection Care Session, May 29, “The Ossabaw Island Workshops – Preventive Conservation Training in a Real Life Setting” by David Bayne

Since 2010, there have been four Preventive Conservation workshops on Ossabaw Island, three of which have been generously funded by FAIC. These workshops have provided a unique training experience for both emerging conservation professionals and pre-program students.
Background and History of the Island
Ossabaw Island is a 26,000-acre remote barrier island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. It has five residents, and may only be accessed by private boat. It is mostly wilderness, but there are some very interesting historic buildings, including some slave cabins of tabby construction (a technique using oyster shells, sand, and water as the mortar ingredients), the Club House (c. 1885) – where lectures take place and participants are housed, and the Torrey-West House or the “Main House” – where the actual work is carried out.
Dr. and Mrs. Torrey bought the island in 1924 and had a house built there to be their family’s winter home to escape the harsh winters of their native Michigan. The house was completed in 1926, and the Torreys spent four months (January – April) there each year afterward. The current owner of the house is Mrs. Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West, who is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Torrey and is currently 101 years old.
In 1961, Mrs. West and her husband started an artist colony, where writers, artists, and composers could come stay in the Wests’ home and be inspired by the island’s natural beauty and tranquility. In the 1970s, this evolved into the Genesis Project, where college students and less-established artists came to work on various projects. The Genesis participants were more self-sufficient and built settlements, cooking/dining/washing facilities, and a pottery kiln at an area of the island called “Middle Place.”
With her money running out, Mrs. West decided to sell the island to the state of Georgia in 1978, but she had several stipulations. She wanted the island to remain wild and continue to be a place of inspiration, creativity, and discovery, so the state was not allowed to build a causeway or start a ferry service to the island. They also had to continue encouraging arts and sciences projects/research and allow her to continue living in her house on the island until her death.
The Workshop
The original goals of the workshop were to use the Main House to:
1. Train housekeepers working in historic houses.
2. Professionalize preventive conservation.
3. Expose professional and emerging conservators to a nascent historic house and provide an opportunity for them to take part in its institutionalization.

The living room in the Main House on Ossabaw Island, GA.
The living room in the Main House on Ossabaw Island, GA.

The workshop provides a unique opportunity for participants to learn about preventive conservation and housekeeping practices for a historic house.  The things that make this program so unique are that the house…

  • is still a home in which the current owner is a 101-year-old woman who resides there full-time.
  • is on a remote island, and supplies must be brought out by chartered boat from the mainland.
  • suffers from MANY problems, such as:
    • The environment of the island (heat, humidity, salty ocean air, etc.)
      • Mold and mildew
      • Rotting wood
      • Rusting metal
    • Pests
      • Extensive damage to house, furniture, pillows/cushions, carpets/rugs, books, taxidermy, etc by termites, carpet beetles, silverfish, rodents, and other pests.
    • General neglect
      • As Mrs. West became older, she could not take care of the house by herself, and she could not afford to pay for the amount of repairs and housekeeping that the house required.
    • Arsenic
      • Exotic game heads (a lioness, black rhino, water buffalo, and a few kinds of antelope) have always been a major component of the living room décor, even appearing in the original architect drawings for the house.  These may have been shot by Dr. Torrey himself on a safari hunting trip to Africa.  All of them were treated with an arsenic-based pesticide.  Testing of the heads found that some had arsenic content that was off the charts (>160 ppb).

Though current housekeepers in historic houses were the original target audience, most of the people who have completed the workshop have been pre-program conservation students. A house with such a rich and fascinating history, but so many conservation issues, provides a lot of opportunities for pre-programmers to learn and gain hands-on experience. That is probably the workshop’s greatest achievement: exposing potential conservation students to collections care and preventive conservation.
I was lucky enough to have been one of the participants in the 2013 season. It was not glamorous. We worked hard and got dirty, crawling around on the floors and under cobwebbed furniture, vacuuming, dusting, moving heavy wooden furniture, and examining sticky traps that had caught all sorts of disgusting, multi-legged creatures. Through all of this, we got exposure to integrated pest management (IPM) and the care of furniture, paintings, textiles, books, and works of art on paper. It could be gross, but it was fun and exciting, too. As David said in his presentation, “Everything is an adventure on Ossabaw.”
Another major achievement of the workshop has been in helping emerging conservation professionals by providing third-year students or recent graduates the opportunity to be instructors. In 2013, that included two former WUDPAC students, Stephanie Hulman (paintings) and Emily Schuetz Stryker (textiles). These young professionals play an essential role because they have knowledge of the most recent techniques and advancements in the field and are better able to answer pre-program students’ questions about portfolios and conservation school.

2013 Team - Ossabaw Island Preventive Conservation Workshop
2013 Team – Ossabaw Island Preventive Conservation Workshop

Unfortunately, Emily Schuetz Stryker died suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year. She was a great instructor, a wonderful person, and the most talented knitter that I have ever met. The Ossabaw workshop would not have been the same without her sense of humor and her wonderful laugh.
RIP Emily Schuetz Stryker (1987 – 2014)