Victoria Schussler finds that dusting prior to the opening of the Museum of Modern Art is her favorite part of the day.

Art conservation interns

Art conservation students preserve valuable artifacts in summer internships

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12:57 p.m., July 16, 2013--Victoria Schussler begins each morning the same way. She dusts. 

It’s her favorite part of the day, that hour before the Museum of Modern Art opens to the public, when she walks the gallery alone, surrounded by the artwork she admires, removing the dust that has collected from the day before. 

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Schussler is among the 20 graduate students in the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) interning with professional conservators across the globe. 

Working for eight weeks at major museums, regional and academic institutions, historic sites and conservation laboratories, she and her fellow students are “gaining exposure to differing global professional perspectives and building solid experiences in their intended areas of conservation specialization,” says Debra Hess Norris, professor and chair of UD’s famed art conservation program

That has been the case for Courtney Von Stein, an intern in artifact conservation at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada. There she has worked on a number of projects, from the treatment of a 20th century Chinese revolving paper lantern, to preserving and maintaining Native American totem poles. 

“I am interested in the art of the Northwest coast, and this internship has provided me the opportunity to immerse myself in the midst of it all and to work on beautiful artifacts that are incredibly culturally significant,” she says. “I'm working with a team of conservators who are very experienced and knowledgeable. It's been great.”

Schussler, whose MoMA internship includes working on several sculptures from artists like Alberto Giacometti, Claes Oldenburg and Carol Bove, has enjoyed learning about the conservation approaches best suited to the treatment of modern and contemporary art, fine art in particular. 

She applies what she has learned through her graduate program “all day, every day.”

“This summer I have a great opportunity to combine what I have learned so far in my graduate studies with the expertise of the excellent conservators at MoMA in the approaches best suited to modern and contemporary art," she said.

For Ronel Namde, an intern in the conservation branch of the United States Holocaust Museum, there is enormous weight and importance to “work in the service of culture and preservation, as well as human rights.”  

Namde is interested in the conservation of photographic material and has spent a large part of her internship working with a set of magnetic photo albums and treating glass-plate photographs from the collection. 

She has also worked on some of the museum’s permanent exhibits, including caring for the thousands of shoes taken away from prisoners gassed in concentration camps. One of the most emotional and memorable exhibits, the shoes represent “the innocence of the victims in very tangible ways.” 

“The first time I saw them was really emotional,” says Namde. “The space is still emotional, but that connection is why I do what I do. It’s also why I love what I do.”

Article by Artika Casini

Photos courtesy of Victoria Schussler, Courtney Von Stein and Ronel Namde

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