UD grad students help preserve cultural heritage across U.S., around globe
Renee Wolcott, UD graduate student in art conservation, gives President Monroe "a bath." Cleaning the 19th-century engraving is one of several projects she's been working on during her summer internship at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
In the Giant Buddha Temple called the Fengguosi in Yixian, China, UD graduate student Emily MacDonald-Korth helps to document and analyze the paint used in the 12th-century wall murals.


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10:57 a.m., July 28, 2010----“President James Monroe needs a bath -- and I'm the one filling the tub,” writes Renee Wolcott, a University of Delaware master's student in art conservation.

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Wolcott is referring to the challenging task of cleaning a foxed and ink-stained 19th-century engraving of the fifth U.S. president during her summer internship at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Wolcott is one of 20 graduate students in the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) who are helping to preserve objects ranging from ancient Grecian pottery to daguerreotype photographs of the 1850s while on internships at museums, private conservation studios, and field archaeological sites across the United States and around the globe this summer. Read about the students' experiences in their reports with pictures, linked below.

In the Giant Buddha Temple called Fengguosi in Yixian, China, Emily MacDonald-Korth and Carlos Moya helped to document 12th-century wall murals under the gaze of seven, 30-foot-tall Buddha statues.

The University of Delaware was invited to collaborate on the project by Tsinghua University in Beijing. UD and Tsinghua have a growing number of academic and research collaborations under way in the areas of mechanical engineering, art history, architecture, and art conservation.

“Working at Fengguosi under the giant majestic Buddhas was a surreal and enchanting experience that none of us will ever forget,” the students wrote.

The eight-to-ten week summer experiences are designed to enhance the research and conservation skills of UD's art conservation graduate students while providing the host institutions with additional professional assistance in caring for their collections, according to Debra Hess Norris, vice provost for graduate and professional education, Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts, and chairperson of the Department of Art Conservation.

Jennifer Jae Gutierrez, interim director of WUDPAC, consulted with students and faculty to finalize summer placements and secure external support, where required.

“Our students are fortunate to be placed in noteworthy institutions, private conservation studios and historical sites here and abroad. We are proud of the contributions they make during these summer work projects,” Gutierrez says.

“Having well-informed, highly skilled conservators is vitally important to the preservation of artistic and cultural collections worldwide,” notes Norris, who co-led a global gathering of conservators from 35 countries in Salzburg, Austria, last November. “Our goal is to infuse our students with the knowledge and experience needed to protect these irreplaceable treasures.”

The Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation is one of only four programs in the United States to offer the master's degree in art conservation. The program's graduates have conserved numerous irreplaceable objects ranging from the Declaration of Independence to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the architectural interiors of Mount Vernon to the Forbidden City, works of art by Rembrandt to Wyeth, the Star-Spangled Banner, Babe Ruth's baseball contract, Elvis Presley's 81 gold records, and the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

To learn more about the program, visit the art conservation master's program website.

Class of 2011

LeeAnn Barnes Gordon -- Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece

Lauren Bradley -- Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Md.

Alisha Chipman -- Paul Messier, LLC. Boston, Mass.

Rose Daly -- Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Tex.

Emily MacDonald-Korth -- Fengguo Temple, Yixian, China

Amanda Maloney -- Fotorestauratie Atelier, C.C. von Waldthausen, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Gwen Manthey -- Western Center for the Conservation of Fine Arts, Denver, Colo.

Caroline Roberts -- English Heritage, London, England

Kirsten Travers -- Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg, Maastricht, Netherlands

Renee Wolcott -- Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Class of 2012

Erin Anderson -- Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, Poggio Colla Excavation, Vicchio, Italy

Tatiana Cole -- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Anne Getts -- Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pa.

Sarah Gowen -- Shangri-La, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii

Allison Holcomb -- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Va.

Ellen Moody -- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Carlos Moya -- Fengguo Temple, Yixian, China

Steven O'Banion -- Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Oman -- Shangri-La, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii

Ellen Promise -- Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pa.

Article by Tracey Bryant