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Abigail Rodriguez, an art conservation graduate student, helps to
preserve a collection of photographs of iconic Puerto Rican boxers owned
by The House of the Boxer, a nonprofit that celebrates the rich history
of boxing on the island. UD students worked on this project in January.
The six art conservation graduate students recently selected as National Endowment for the Humanities
(NEH) fellows at the University of Delaware have a wide range of
academic backgrounds and experiences, but they definitively share one
thing a passion for preserving cultural heritage and for speaking out
about its importance.
From a young age, arts and heritage have inspired me, said J. Riley Cruttenden, who will begin the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
(WUDPAC), an intensive three-year program leading to a masters degree,
this summer. They continually offer insights about the human
experience: where we come from, who we are and where we might be in the
future. Caring for cultural heritage is a form of caring for each
Cruttenden, who has studied fine art, art history and chemistry
and held conservation and research internships with a variety of
institutions in the U.S. and Europe, is one of the new fellows whose
graduate education will receive NEH support through a $350,000,
three-year grant awarded to UD this spring. The grant money will be
allocated entirely to stipends for the six students, two in each of the
three class years.
The fellows are Cruttenden and Alyssa Rina in the Class of 2023,
which begins its first year in mid-August, second-year students
Annabelle Camp and Abigail Rodriguez in the Class of 2022 and third-year
students Madeline Cooper and Marie Desrochers in the Class of 2021. All
were selected as fellows based on their expected engagement with the
public and advocacy for conservation as they share the work they do
during their time in WUDPAC.
This is a highly competitive grant, and were so pleased to have
received it, said Debra Hess Norris, the Unidel Henry Francis du Pont
Chair in Fine Arts and chairperson of the art conservation department.
The NEH has been a wonderful partner for many years and has supported
so much of our work. Im enormously grateful that this grant, in
particular, will allow our students to share their great work with the
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Riley Cruttenden, who will begin the Winterthur/UD Program in Art
Conservation in August, measures a component of the "Model of the
William Rex" from 1698, during a 2017 internship with the Rijksmuseum's
conservation lab in Amsterdam.
Students and faculty in the Department of Art Conservation are
all focused on public engagement and advocacy, Norris said, but the NEH
Fellow title especially emphasizes the importance of that role to the
NEH and to the conservation profession. The six fellows, she said, will
become real ambassadors for the humanities.
Lauren Fair, an affiliated assistant professor of art conservation
and objects conservator at Winterthur Museum, who prepared the grant
proposal submitted to NEH, also spoke of the importance of that agencys
support over the years. Stipends, from the NEH and a variety of other
sources, are tremendously important for the success of our graduates,
Students often do years of preparation to enter WUDPAC, an
internationally prestigious program, taking additional courses in fields
such as chemistry and working as staff members or interns for museums
or conservation organizations after earning their bachelors degree.
Summers in the program are spent in field placements in the U.S. and
abroad, so students rely on stipends to help with their living expenses.
The support from NEH recognizes how
important the field of conservation is to the humanities, Fair said.
Were formally designating these students as NEH Fellows, a
distinction that will follow them throughout their time in our program.
The fellows will do various forms of public outreach, which could
include speaking to school or community groups or helping to organize
workshops or symposia, she said.
The new fellows are aspiring to careers that encompass such areas as
preventive conservation, textiles, industrial materials, emergency
response and preparedness and the challenges climate change poses to
conservation in the form of severe storms and rising sea levels. They
all plan to collaborate closely with the communities that created the
material culture they are studying.
Annabelle Camp, an art conservation student specializing in
textiles, works on a dress for the Winterthur Museums 2019-20 costume
exhibition based on the TV series The Crown.
Annabelle Camp, who earned her bachelors degree in art conservation
and anthropology at UD in 2019, said that background has given her a
very human-centered approach to the study of objects focused on how
items were used and what they meant to the people who used them.
Conservation is based on the idea of making things better, Camp
said. At the end of the day, it makes me feel good to know I'm doing
something to make these objects our world's material culture
available for future generations to see and study.
In addition to the expectation that the fellows will take part in
high-level advocacy and outreach activities, Fair said the program is
interested in increasing diversity and access in the field of art
Abigail Rodriguez said thats a goal of hers as well, as she examines
the role of the conservator within a broader context of heritage and
As my professional goals include continuing to address key issues
such as increasing diversity and access, I am interested in how
accessibility of cultural heritage materials can be increased and
enriched through audience engagement with conservation projects, she
said. I also look forward to continuing to consider the role the
discipline plays within the larger context of revitalization, community
Its especially important to advocate for the benefits of
conservation and material culture during todays challenging social and
economic times, Norris said.
The arts are not a luxury, she said. Theyre essential.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Evan Krape and courtesy of Riley Cruttenden, Laura Mina and Sophie Church
Published June 30, 2020