Message from the Conservation IDP Chair

Greetings and welcome to the Interdepartmental Program (IDP) on the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials (CAEM) Interdepartmental Degree Program (IDP).

Conservation is a fascinating field. Conservators work hands-on with beautiful and unique cultural heritage objects that present interesting challenges to scientists and curators alike. To deconstruct an object and understand its complex nature requires creative, critical thinking and expertise in integrating ideas, concepts, and principles from many different fields. For the conservation of an object, various factors need to be considered: provenance, aesthetics, artist’s intent, original technique, physical condition, and conservation history. Understanding the physical properties of materials and exploring ways to characterize original techniques, as well as defects caused either by faulty construction or as a result of aging and weathering, is key to the conservation of artifacts.  No other academic discipline exceeds the range of knowledge required by conservation.  It deeply captures the full panoply of what modern universities do:  life, physical, earth and social sciences, art, information, engineering, and history.  It also perfectly blends the principle of museum knowledge that materiality is central to human society with the principle of most conventional university disciplines (outside archeology) that social life is based on symbolic meaning. 

The UCLA/Getty program uniquely trains the next generation of conservators in the best practices and methods of cultural heritage conservation through various pedagogical approaches, including, but not limited to, core teaching and learning, independent research, and laboratory experience in museums and in the field. Finally, reaches beyond the academy to partner with institutions and individuals dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of societies from the pre-historic to the twenty-first century, from hegemonic empires to the subaltern and marginalized, from exquisite art to mundane artifacts.  A distinctive feature is our training in both archeological and ethnographic conservation, erasing the distinction inherited from colonialism that the ancient past and Third World present require contrasting methods and theories.

The program is navigating an important transition, unfolding into a new era of preparing conservation professionals and advancing the science of conservation.  With the retirement of David Scott, CAEM’s founding chair and an important link to the art community, the Dean of Social Science appointed a committee to review the program and ponder its future.  As a result, the university has granted the authority to conduct a search for a senior scholar, sustaining the faculty size. I was appointed as temporary chair for this purpose.  It is not unusual for the university to appoint temporary chairs in this sort of situation.  I am a retired sociology professor who has been at UCLA since 1976, having served as vice-chair of graduate studies and chair of the Sociology Department. I have also been active in the Academic Senate, which has authority over all curriculum and degrees at UCLA, including chairing the Research Council and the Graduate Council, which oversees graduate education (a position recently occupied by CAEM’s Ioanna Kakoulli). 

This academic year will see two exciting developments. We have authorization to hire a faculty member to fill the slot vacated by David Scott’s retirement.  The priorities are to find someone who can teach the core courses he taught, work with art-oriented parts of the university, a proven record of excellent teaching, and stellar research achievements. We are also launching our PhD program in the Fall of 2019. The PhD degree will extend the MA training to higher methodological sophistication and research experience, preparing students for university, museum, and other research jobs.

Our program is currently comprised of four ‘core’ faculty members (including the vacant position being filled this year) with split appointments in the Conservation IDP, a full time academic staff (with appointments in the Specialist and Lecturer series), and a 50% time administrative staff with the title of Program Coordinator.

The three-year program leading to a master’s degree consists of two years of coursework and laboratory work on artifacts, emphasizing research-based practice, combined with two internships: a-ten-week summer internship between the first and second years and a nine-month long internship in the third year. A master’s research paper is completed at the end of the second year of study to allow students to concentrate on their internship duties and conservation work in the third year.

I encourage you to explore our recently redesigned Website, which provides detailed information on our academic and research programs, faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Enjoy your visit and please do not hesitate to contact us for further information. 


William Roy

Chair, UCLA/Getty Conservation IDP

Research Professor, UCLA Dept. of Sociology