May 21, 2018

Conservation Science Teaching Program with Art Institute of Chicago

University of Chicago Arts

Ann Lindsey. Courtesy of UChicago Library.

Preeminent conservation scientist to launch collaboration

The University of Chicago’s Department of Art History is partnering with the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME), the Humanities Division, and the College to launch a visionary conservation science teaching collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago. With support from philanthropist Suzanne Deal Booth, the department has created a five-year position to teach two classes each year in conservation and conservation science respectively: the Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminars. over the course of five years, the department will offer two classes each year in conservation and conservation science respectively: the Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminars. The program will also support an annual eight-week summer undergraduate research internship in the Department of Conservation and Science at the Art Institute.

Conservation and conservation science exemplify the kinds of interdisciplinary teaching and research happening across UChicago’s campus. As a part of the recently renewed Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Chicago Objects Study Initiative (COSI), this collaboration aims to harness and deepen the university’s ongoing initiatives in the arts and applied sciences and connect them to the humanities, and to combine all three in distinct, innovative, and meaningful ways.

With the convergence of three recent initiatives—the five-year conservation of Wolf Vostell’s public sculpture Concrete Traffic led by Mehring, a 2016 Rhoades Seminar in technical art history, and COSI—interdisciplinary instruction on conservation and conservation science is coming to the forefront at UChicago. The collaboration will bring science students into meaningful contact with the humanities and vice versa, while enabling undergraduates to discover a lesser-known career path at a pivotal moment in their studies and internship explorations.

IME, established in 2011 by UChicago in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, is a transformational academic unit and interdisciplinary research institute exploring the intersection of science and engineering. By converging multiple disciplines, IME is well-equipped to contribute to the collaborative nature of this new conservation teaching program.

The inaugural lecturer for this shared position is Maria Kokkori, Associate Conservation Scientist for Scholarly Initiatives at the Art Institute of Chicago. Kokkori’s skills in archival research, knowledge of paintings materials, techniques, and conservation, and her ability to conduct scientific analysis allow for a unique blend of instruction from which students will continue to benefit.

Kokkori will teach two Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminars next year, one in the conservation and materials of art and one in conservation science. Open to both undergraduates and graduate students, the classes draw on ongoing research and treatments of objects in the Art Institute, the Smart Museum, the Oriental Institute, Special Collections, and the UChicago Public Art Collection.

The first two Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminars, Modern & Contemporary Materialities and The Material Science of Art, will be offered in fall and winter 2018, respectively. Modern & Contemporary Materialities will explore the links between the materiality, making, and meaning of modern art and investigate how surface, form, texture, and color are localized in particular artistic or historical contexts. The Material Science of Art will introduce students to the methods, theories, and strategies of scientific approaches to studying art objects and consider the meaning of different materials and surfaces across artistic media.

As part of the partnership, the Department of Conservation and Conservation Science at the Art Institute will host different UChicago undergraduate student interns for five summers. During the first 8-week internship this year, a student will survey the Art Institute’s 20th-century art works on plastic supports in the Prints & Drawings collection to help determine conservation and display strategies. Research will be undertaken at the Art Institute and UChicago, allowing the use of the analytical facilities, libraries, and other resources at both institutions. Kokkori will supervise the intern, who will also participate in the Art Institute’s professional development programming for all its interns and fellows.

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