Lecture

Art Conservation between Theory and Practice: The UC Davis Laboratory in Fine Arts and Museology, 1964-1978
Seth Hindin

Student at work in the UC Davis Laboratory in Fine Arts and Museology

In January 1964 UC President Clark Kerr approved the creation of the Laboratory for Research in Fine Arts and Museology as “a unique center for the study of techniques in the arts, with reference to materials, construction, and restoration” that would “establish the Davis Campus as an important center for this kind of graduate instruction.” The Laboratory was the joint initiative of Charles Muskavitch (d. 2001), the first art conservator in California, and Joseph A. Baird (d. 1992), the first art history professor at UC Davis, and was one of the earliest museum studies and art conservation training programs in North America.  This paper will discuss the historical background, operations, and trajectory of the Laboratory, arguing that its controversial closure in June 1978 was not merely due to budget cuts, as has been previously claimed, but was also a product of the evolving landscape of arts funding, the shifting disciplinary positions of art conservation and museum studies vis-a-vis art history, and methodological changes taking place within art history and art conservation.

Dr. Seth Hindin is an ACLS New Faculty Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History, UC Davis.

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