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Caroline Longo, a student in the Suzanne Deal Booth Seminar “The Material Science of Art,” prepares to use x-radiography to examine The Penitent St. Jerome at the Smart Museum of Art. Courtesy of the University of Chicago.

Suzanne Deal Booth Gives University of Chicago $1 Million for Art Conservation

The University of Chicago’s department of art history has received a $1 million gift from activist, philanthropist, and Napa Valley vintner Suzanne Deal Booth in support of its art conservation program. The funds will be used to establish an endowment that builds upon the university’s five-year conservation initiative, which launched in the spring of 2018. The pilot program created a new professorship, courses, and other opportunities for students to learn about art conservation and conservation science on campus and includes an annual internship in the field.

“What truly sets UChicago’s approach apart from specialized conservation programs elsewhere is how it is embedded in a liberal arts education and graduate studies in art history and the humanities,” said professor Christine Mehring, the chair of the department of art history. “Over years of object-driven teaching, I have seen how the material and visual presence of art and architecture fosters not only heightened attention but empowers students from different backgrounds and disciplines: everyone looks at the same thing, together. There is so much untapped potential for students on our campus to investigate relations between the science and the meanings of artistic materials.”

Open to both undergraduates and graduate students, the conservation courses—called the Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminars—focus on the research and treatment of objects in the collections of the university and the Art Institute of Chicago. They also draw upon available resources from UChicago’s Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering, an interdisciplinary research institute. Maria Kokkori, an associate conservation scientist for scholarly initiatives at the Art Institute of Chicago, taught the first class offered by the university, titled The Material Science of Art.

Commenting on the program, Deal Booth said: “Cultural heritage conservation is more than a static conservation of the past. It is a dynamic means of informing the future. It gives me great joy and personal satisfaction that these classes are structured to embrace science, art, history, and philosophy with the intention of broadening the students’ knowledge and love for this exciting, interdisciplinary field.”

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