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Northumbria University

Burt Hall, Home to the Art Conservation Department
Burt Hall, Art Conservation Department Building

Northumbria features two campuses in the city centre- City Campus East and City Campus West. Most of the larger buildings have a very modern feel and were built in the 2000s. There is a historic part of campus and that is where my classes take place. My classes take place in Burt Hall on City Campus West.  The school itself is well equipped with a large sports centre, a student run student union (with 3 pubs and a night club!), as well as 2 libraries and much more. I am told the facilities for the conservation students are quite nice and fulfill all our needs from pyrolysis gas chromatography mass-spectrometry to x-ray and much more. I’m looking forward to exploring all of this!

The program offers three different masters degrees. There is a year long masters of arts in preventative conservation, as well as two 18 month programs in both paper conservation and paintings conservation. Each path takes somewhere from as few as four to as many as 14 students every year. They do not take a fixed class of 10 students like the US schools.  The number fluctuates depending on who applies and who accepts the offer of admission. For paintings and paper our first semester is spent taking a conservation science course, as well as a course on preventative conservation and conservation ethics. This work is augmented weekly field trips related to our studies.

The second semester is spent four days a week working in the studio of our desired specialization. Mine is paintings! Here we spend time learning how to document the paintings condition before, during, and after treatment through reports, photographs, xrays, and more. We also begin to learn the various hand skills needed to complete treatment such as cleaning systems, tear repair, inpainting, and much more.

The summer is spent working at internship sites around the world for approximately 4 months. I’ll most likely be coming back to the US with a possible short stint somewhere in the UK. The third semester, the fall, finds us back in residence in the studio learning more and fine tuning our hand skills. The fourth semester, 3 months in the spring from January to March, is spent writing our 15,000 word dissertation. This can be nearly anything! A literature review, a comprehensive treatment, a treatment with art historical or conservation science implications, or really whatever excites us! I’m hoping to explore auxiliary support structures such as lining canvases and auxiliary support boards. Not sure where I’m going with this yet… but I’ll figure it out! Finally in July of 2015 I will receive my diploma, a Master of Arts in Fine Art Conservation- Easel Paintings, and my new title will be conservator of paintings. Hurray!

After all this information, I’ll leave you with a lovely image of the Northumbrian countryside outside of Newcastle….

northumbrian countryside

(Many thanks to Wikipedia for my information and pictures!)