Purpose and Principles

The Collections department works to advance the conservation of movable cultural heritage, specifically objects and collections housed in museums, libraries and archives, historic buildings and sites, and other repositories. Consistent with the Institute's mission, the core of the department's work lies in education, training, and information dissemination. The Collections department views education—whether in the classroom, in the field or, increasingly, online—as a critical element in advancing conservation practice internationally and in building the capacity of individuals and institutions responsible for collections.

Staff of the department includes conservators experienced in caring for collections in museums, archives, and historic properties.

Project Design and Implementation

Collections department projects are designed to address recognized needs within the field in thematic areas that align with the Institute's own experience, strengths, and staff expertise. Projects often include several integrated components: education and professional development, research, field application and testing, and information dissemination. Project goals are determined by the needs being targeted, contextual factors, the interests of the project stakeholders, and the expertise the Institute brings to the work.

In implementing projects, the Collections department collaborates with local, regional, and international partners to assure that our activities respond to challenges encountered by conservation professionals in a range of contexts and that expertise is shared broadly among partners. While the department works with a diverse range of international partners, a significant focus is on countries or regions where professional development opportunities may be limited or where the conservation profession itself is still nascent. In these instances, projects are undertaken with local institutions so that work can be tailored to the specific conservation and capacity-building goals of these entities and their professional constituencies.

The Collections department offers courses, workshops, colloquia, and other professional development activities tailored to the needs of both conservators and allied professionals. These activities span several thematic areas, including modern and contemporary art, the control and management of collection environments, and the preservation of photographs. In addition, the department collaborates with colleagues in Science in offering a series of short workshops that present new research results or analytical methods to the field with the aim of assisting their integration into conservation practice.

Along with short courses and workshops, the Collections department also develops long-term education initiatives that allow the GCI's instructors to engage with learners over an extended period of time, using the web to expand learning, mentoring, and networking possibilities. Examples of this approach can be found in the preservation of photographs projects for southern, central, and eastern Europe and the Middle East.

In addition to education and training, the department also undertakes field activities that are closely linked to research undertaken by the Science department. Fieldwork is intended to test the viability of emerging knowledge and technical innovations within real world contexts. Training and mentoring are also incorporated into the department's field activities whenever feasible.

Whatever their focus, projects can vary in scale, complexity, and duration but are often multi-disciplinary, drawing upon a diversity of expertise both internally and externally. Project teams may consist of conservators, conservation scientists, architects, engineers, and a range of scholars and educators dealing with the conservation of material culture.

Dissemination and Professional Opportunities

Many of the didactic resources developed for courses and workshops are available under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA) for downloading by educators and learners. These materials include syllabi, course descriptions, technical notes, videos, and related resources used in the Institute's courses.

The Collections Department also oversees the operations of the Information Center, and the Conservation Guest Scholar, Postdoctoral Fellowship, and Graduate Internship programs.

For further information on these and other GCI projects, see Current Projects and Past Projects.

Last updated: September 2015