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 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, it 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.

Our program is currently comprised of three ‘core’ faculty members with split appointments in the Conservation IDP, an Academic Coordinator, a Staff Research Associate, and a Student Affairs Officer.

This year we are launching a Ph.D. program in the Conservation of Material Culture. With four inaugural students, the Ph.D. degree will extend the MA training to higher methodological sophistication and research experience, preparing graduates for university, museum, and other research jobs. Students are required to take core and elective courses that will prepare them before launching on their original research in the conservation of material culture.

The three-year UCLA/Getty Master’s Degree program 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.


Glenn Wharton

Lore and Gerald Cunard Chair, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

Professor, Art History and Conservation of Material Culture

University of California, Los Angeles