Orientation week was an exciting time for all! The first week we spent as a class at the IFA was jam-packed with meetings and greetings, tours, workshops, discussions and receptions. This time before school started provided us with ample opportunity to get to know our classmates and to explore the amenities of the beautiful, historic Duke and Chan Houses that will be our second homes for the next few years.
Because we had summer reading assignments in art history, conservation theory, and conservation science, our first week included an intensive review of our summer preparation. We had a workshop on the chemistry of solvents, solutions, and adhesives, for which we prepared with readings from the Science for Conservators series, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3. Another session focused on conservation theory; we had an exciting opportunity to discuss our readings from Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage–the Getty Conservation Institute’s anthology of foundational texts–with the CC’s director, Michele Marincola.
Quite tragically, Kate fell down the marble stairs at the Duke House on the second day of Orientation! Professor Marincola and Cat Lukaszewski were very kind and took her to the hospital to get x-rays and crutches. Luckily it was just a sprain, and it healed quickly!
One of the most time-intensive units was a workshop on the use of polarized light microscopy in fiber identification. We had the unique opportunity to meet with Denyse Montegut–a professor of textile conservation at the the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Denyse’s passion for textiles and for fibers was evident as she introduced us to fiber composition and to the methods of fiber identification. This was our first time to work in the microscopy lab, and we were each given a box of fiber slide ounce in order to compare fibers, and to familiarize ourselves with their structure and unique characteristics. We got to look at natural fibers–such as hemp, flax, linen, cotton, mercerized cotton, silk, tussah silk, and wool, as well as rabbit and llama hairs!–and synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers–including cellulose acetate, nylon, and polyesters. Denyse’s discussion of how and when these fibers were invented and how they are produced was extremely interesting!
The second important Orientation workshop was taught by Dwight Primiano, a professional artistic and commercial photographer who teaches Photography for Art Historians and Conservators at multiple locations. He introduced us to the principles of documentary photography in the Conservation Center’s photography studio, as well as to the basics of post-production in Adobe Photoshop. For those of us who had never taken a photography class, Dwight’s explanations as to how a camera “sees” were particularly fascinating. In order to be in control of how the camera documents the object–and to best reflect the reality of the object–it is very important to understand the mechanics of your instruments! Dwight is also very knowledgeable about the digital life of a graphics file, and so we also learned how to keep and manipulate “archival” RAW files as they are migrated to different file formats in different locations.
These two were the first in a series of workshops on microscopy and photography planned for our first semester. Next, we will have a workshop on Pigment Analysis in the Microscopy Lab, and Dwight will guide us through our first official photodoc experience in order to produce our works-on-paper Condition Report (Stay tuned!)
Across the street at the Duke House, home to the Masters and Doctoral programs in Art History, we prepared for our graduate studies in art history: During orientation week we registered for our art history electives, as well as for our Foundations course in historiography and art historical methods. We also learned how to navigate the many resources that will be at our fingertips, including the Chan House and Duke House Libraries, Digital Media Services, and the various computer labs at the Institute. In addition to the seemingly inexhaustible online resources, we were encouraged to tap into the Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Art Reference Library, and the Bobst Library, NYU’s main library downtown.
With Museum Mile just a few footsteps away, it’s clear that our actual campus is not just the Conservation Center, but the city of New York. Now that we are all registered for classes and oriented with regard to the myriad of resources at our disposal, we are certainly looking forward to an exciting four years!