Conservation & Design International

Art and Materials Conservation Program, Columbia College Chicago

Photo: Three students from the first class, left to right: A. Cassidy, M. Philips, C. Clement working on a painting called "Lo Spirito Santo" from the 17th century. It belongs to the Pieve (Parish) di Carraia in Prato. The gesso layer has already been applied and the students are now applying a "background" layer of gouache.

In the fall of 2011, five students started their first year in the just approved, Arts and Materials Conservation Program, in the Science and Mathematics Department of Columbia College Chicago. Developed with the guidelines of the American Institute for Conservation, it also provides the kind of hands-on education one would expect in a degree at Columbia. The first such undergraduate program in the Midwest, and one of only a few in the U.S., the program in Art and Materials Conservation offers students intense training in chemistry, materials science, studio art, and the humanities, as well as a year of study and hands-on practice at the Lorenzo de' Medici Italian International Institute in Florence, Italy (a one year certificate program).

Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared for graduate study, for work in the field, and they also will have gained a solid foundation in the philosophy and ethics of conservation and preservation. Specifically there are five general learning outcomes we want each student to master. First, to understand the science behind the deterioration, prevention, and reconstruction of cultural artifacts through the science and mathematics courses. Second, develop the manual dexterity, knowledge of techniques, and an understanding and affinity for art materials through the required art and design courses. Third, to understand the artistic and historical context of artwork that is under care of conservators through art and design, humanities, history, social sciences and the capstone courses. Fourth, students will gain an appreciation the complex ethics and civic engagement of art restoration/conservation and authentication through their coursework at Lorenzo de’ Medici and Art and Materials Conservation Capstone course. Fifth, to be able to professionally document their breadth of experience conserving and restoring Renaissance painting, sculpture, woodwork, and/or other cultural materials at Lorenzo de’ Medici, and through their internship, and capstone experiences.

We currently have 16 students in all, (with 4 incoming Freshman is fall) at various stages in the program. One of our students was working on a second Bachelor’s degree, and after her year in Florence, was accepted into the Courtauld Institute Art Post grad Diploma Program for the Conservation of Easel Paintings in London. In the coming spring semester, we will have 4 seniors that we hope to place in internships with local conservators.

The Science and Mathematics Department is very excited about our Art and Materials Conservation program and always eager to hear from local conservators. Please send any inquiries to Michael Welsh, Coordinator of Art and Materials Conservation Program, Columbia College Chicago at

Columbia College Art and Materials Conservation Program