Mellon grants support education and training of library and archives conservators

It is a big news day!

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded major grants in support of the education and training of library and archive conservators to the Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College, the Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware and the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Per the announcement:

The goal of these new programs will be to enhance and expand upon the training of library and archive conservators at the graduate level.  The pilot projects will involve collaborative partnerships with local universities, libraries and archives to connect various resources within a focused, consolidated program of study.  These programs will build upon current curricula while expanding special training through library and information courses, practical instruction from leading conservators and focused summer and winter intersession workshops.  Each academic program is designed to accommodate up to two entering students per academic year who will specialize in library and archive conservation. We are all very excited to play an active role in addressing the on-going need for library and archive conservators to care for America’s cultural heritage collections.”

Each institution has an announcement detailing their plans to fulfill this exciting opportunity:


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8 Responses

  1. On a personal note, I would like to dedicate this announcement to Andrew Dillon and the School of Information at the University of Texas. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

  2. I find it curious – and to be completely honest, a little bit unfortunate – that all 3 selected programs are art conservation programs. The art conservation approach to library/archives conservation is definitely a valid and valuable model – but there are other ways to approach library/archives conservation and these approaches will not be funded, leaving the profession a little less diverse.

  3. Kevin, I agree that art conservation will have a very particular branding on both the type of potential students attracted to (and accepted by) these programs as well as the type of conservators that will be produced by these programs and eventually lead this field. However, the expression “any port in a storm” comes to mind. These are all great programs with fantastic conservation educators. But what’s more, the grants prove that library and archives conservation is anything but dead. Library and archives conservation is alive and well and about to get a new burst of life thanks to the collaborative nature of these programs outlined in the press releases.

  4. Holly, I am encouraged that the Mellon Foundation does recognize the need for and value of funding conservation training – and I should know better than to imply that these 3 worthy programs are monolithic in their approach. I’m sure the conservators they produce will be a great asset to the profession.

  5. Don’t forget Delaware hired two faculty from the UT program so there will be some primary faculty with library and archives experience.

    No library school stepped up to take the program so this is as good as we may get for a while. I’ve had conversations with faculty from Delaware and I think they are committed to training library and archives conservators. And with these grants we now expand options for everyone, which in my opinion is greatly needed (I’d like to see better non-grad school options, too).

    I also wonder if our two fields, museum conservation and library conservation, aren’t becoming more similar than less. Maybe we all benefit more by training together than by staying apart. We’ll see.

  6. One apparent trend from these transitions is the decoupling of library and archives training from the MLS. This trend has already advanced in library based information technology and IT generally so it may now be sweeping across technical services.

    A preservation relation with the MLS dates to preservation pioneers. Some were instructors and students at the University of Chicago library school and at the SLS at Columbia. That relation continued at GSLIS UT. But before the 1970’s practitioners were not so educated.

    Perhaps a side effect of the current transition from the MLS will be a transition away from degree training for preservation administrators. With the PA’s will go a wider grasp of how preservation relates to library services and how it can be advocated in a context of screen based instruction and research. You really can’t depend on conservators to understand culture transmission or an on-coming dark age.

  7. I think it will be interesting to see where these programs go and how they plan on working with library schools to train library and archives conservators. Delaware is working with Simmons, or at least that was their plan when we held the AIC discussion last year. Pending any other library school starting a self contained program, this may be the way that we continue providing the library context to conservation training.

    Gary is right, though, about the decoupling of MLS’s and tech services. We see that across the library landscape from cataloging to collection development, I don’t think this is a preservation or conservation issue exclusively. So how do we make the case for the importance of the MLS? or should we? are we becoming more museum-like and therefor more aligned with the art conservation programs (and they more like us)?

    In all of conversations of the past few years about conservation training we have not really addressed preservation administration training. As someone who has taught preservation for eight years at the grad-school level, it seems to me more people are interested in this as at least a sub-field. But, I have to say, without jobs being created for PA’s, there will be fewer and fewer students going into the field and the few programs that exist now will die out. That is in part, I believe, why Mellon funded three permanent positions…to provide at least a few jobs to demonstrate the need for training library conservators.

    I’m not sure, however, that I agree with Gary that conservators can’t or don’t understand the wider grasp of how preservation relates to library services especially in the digital age. I think in large part because of my MLS training coupled with my involvement at the committee and department-head level that I understand this very well. The key, at least for me, is to work closely with our digital projects department and staff, and to keep up with the issues so that I can connect the dots and understand cultural transmission in the e-age. Conservators shouldn’t hide in the lab and stare at paper all day if we want to remain relevant to the institutions we serve.

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