Book and Paper
Book and Paper is an excitingly diverse specialisation. Students work on paper, leather and parchment to develop experience in the treatment of objects such as valuable drawings, prints, archivalia and books. It is important to gain insight into forms of degradation and damage, an understanding of the context, the manufacturing and composition of paper, leather and parchment. Students also need to learn how to observe and understand the changes the objects undergo during treatment. This knowledge is indispensable to be able to make responsible ethical considerations before treatment can begin.
Is the conservation of contemporary art already needed? Yes, indeed it is! The rapid and sometimes irreversible decay of modern materials and the loss of knowledge about intricate installations and complex interactive artworks requires a far-sighted view, new treatment methods and conservation strategies. An exciting challenge in which working with living artists and other stake-holders gives an extra dimension to the profession of the conservator-restorer.
Glass, Ceramics and Stone
Glass, ceramics and stone are closely related compositionally resulting in similar conservation issues and solutions. Grouping these three materials together in one specialisation at Master’s level encourages an exciting cross-fertilisation of ideas and broadens the student’s approach to problem solving and research. The objects and materials covered range from delicate archaeological Egyptian faience to monumental outdoor sculpture and from refined Chinese porcelain in museum collections to antique mirrors in working historic houses. In the Post-Master’s programme trainees specialise in either glass and ceramics, or stone.
The conservator-restorer of Historic Interiors is primarily involved with ‘finishing’ layers applied to interior elements of the most diverse kind while never losing sight of the whole. These elements cannot be viewed in isolation since interiors were always originally meant to be seen as a total design; an ‘ensemble’. The conservator-restorer of Historic Interiors has a flexible attitude, excellent communication skills and a great love of interiors.
The variety encountered in the field of metal conservation is huge: there are metal conservator-restorers working on the most exquisite jewellery, but there are also metal conservator-restorers who work on aeroplanes and ships. This versatility makes our profession so fascinating. Metal itself is also a versatile material: it can be shaped, welded, soldered, etc. The wide range of techniques that metal conservator-restorers have at their disposal can range from the traditional to the very modern, such as 3D printing. However, despite the wide variety in the material, the techniques used and the types of objects, there is a strong similarity in approach and treatment methods.
A painter uses materials in order to create an illusion, to convey a message. The materials undergo yellowing, fading, become dirty, crack or tear: their ageing becomes all too apparent, disturbing the illusion. Restoring the illusion of the painting as a window to another time or place, with respect for its history and the age of the original materials, is a wonderfully exciting challenge.
In the past 175 years of its history, photography has changed how people view the world, by capturing the reflections of loved ones, scientific innovation, news and art, in black & white, sepia and colour. Photography is an ever-changing medium in which an image is formed by light, chemistry and the eye of the beholder, and is printed onto glass, metal, paper, leather, plastic or an other medium. Not all photographs are equally stable and much has yet to be discovered about these intriguing objects. The photograph conservator is faced with performing research and providing understanding, advice and treatment to ensure these treasures will be preserved for generations ahead. It is an exciting journey of captivation and discovery!
Tapestries with exotic scenes, christening dresses with fragile lace edging, dresses made from metres of colourful silk. These are just a few of the objects that may come into the hands of a textile conservator-restorer. These tangible pieces of history can be preserved for the future through conservation. The profession demands precision, but also an entrepreneurial spirit and creativity in order to find solutions for a multitude of problems. Textile conservation: a course for curious thinkers/doers who know how to value the past.
Wood and Furniture
In its early days, the profession of the furniture conservator-restorer was limited and craft-oriented but has since broadened strongly and is now more theoretically, scientifically and ethically developed. Thanks to research, increasingly there are more treatment methods available from which to choose for a wide range of damage types. This choice requires a thorough analysis of the nature and behaviour of materials, sometimes in a complex interrelation. In some cases economic, ethical, historical and sometimes also religious considerations also have to be taken on board.
Technical Art History
Have you always been intrigued about what happens in an artist’s studio? Or by questions as why sculptures and vases from Antiquity survived but paintings not. Did you ever wonder what Impressionism would have been without the invention of the paint tube? Or how the laboratory has contributed to the authentication of Rembrandt’s oeuvre? These are the kind of questions that are addressed in the emerging field of Technical Art History. This specialisation emphasises the study of works of art as material objects. It investigates how the use of specific materials and techniques affect their appearance, and has consequences for the historical development of art.
Through various courses, students learn about the position of Technical Art History within the field, about historical sources, the history of important technological advances, and the relevance of scientific examination and interpretation. They also participate in hands-on activities: the technical examination of paintings, and making reconstructions using historically appropriate materials. A number of the courses are taught in conjunction with the Conservation and Restoration master’s programme, while others are based in the Art History department, thereby forming a curriculum that incorporates a diversity of perspectives and practices from outset.