Conservation Program Name Change Reflects Focus on Cultural Heritage

The UCLA/Getty Conservation Program has officially become the UCLA/Getty Interdepartmental Program in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage. “This name more accurately reflects our program, which pioneers new ways of preserving cultural heritage“ according to Program Chair Glenn Wharton, who made the official announcement culminating months-long consultation with faculty, students, alumni, and the Getty Conservation Institute. Previously, the program was known as the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials Interdepartmental Program.

“It is the only academic program in the western United States devoted to conservation education and training, and the only one nationally to focus on both archaeological and Indigenous materials,” Wharton explained in his name change proposal. “It serves as a model in these specialized fields as it continues to pioneer new ways of preserving cultural heritage.”

Faculty, students, and staff began an open conversation in the fall of 2019 about changing the program’s name, according to Wharton, and there was universal agreement that the word “ethnographic” in the name was outdated. In February, 2020, a questionnaire regarding possible names was sent to alumni, and current MA students were asked their opinions. The votes were largely in favor of Conservation of Cultural Heritage Interdepartmental Program.

One alumnus noted: “I prefer a more general name like cultural heritage because it avoids issues related to colonialism and the ‘other’. It is also a recognized term internationally that encompasses the wide-ranging materials we work on.” Another suggested that “Conservation of Cultural Heritage” is broad, and I think that it more accurately reflects the training we receive in the program. In my experience, the current name has led some people in the conservation field to believe that our training is very narrowly focused…. I think it serves graduates well to have a program name that reflects our strong preparation for working with diverse collections.”

“Cultural heritage appears widely in conservation literature as an umbrella term to describe all tangible and intangible materials and traditions that are preserved for the future,” Wharton continued. “Our students and faculty perform technical research and physical interventions to preserve cultural heritage materials. We work with scholars from allied fields, along with community members and caretakers who bring cultural knowledge to our investigations. These collaborations inform conservation decision-making, aid in critical understanding of cultural heritage, and engage stakeholders in constructing narratives about the past,” he added.

Along with the program name change, the master’s program is now Conservation of Cultural Heritage MA. The PhD program will remain the same: Conservation of Material Culture, MS, PhD.