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Research and Teaching – an Indispensible Requirement of Academic Conservation-Restoration Education

Sebastian Dobrusskin

Abstracts

The Conservation and Restoration Division at the Bern University of the Arts is reorganizing its curriculum, following its strategic plan launched in 2014. One of the goals is to strengthen the links between education and research. Several steps were undertaken to achieve this aim. These steps extend from a series of presentations on recent research topics to a joint research course at Master level.

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Herewith the author wishes to thank
Stefan Wülfert for his patient reading and valuable input,
Susan Corr for helping with the English language,
Jean-Marc Wyss and Daniela Wüthrich for translating the abstract into French and
Beate Dobrusskin for proof reading and moral support.

Introduction

1The Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2016) defines research as “a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding”. This is a quite simplified definition of research, not mentioning the use of scientific methods, defining research questions, hypothesis etc., but it shows very well that in principle the aim of research is to gain knowledge and understanding. This is precisely what happens when conservation-restoration is conducted.

2Before any conservation-restoration action can be assessed the conservator-restorer has to examine the work of art or cultural object in order to understand it. This involves in general some research on the materiality, its cultural context, immaterial aspect etc. This is clearly illustrated in the knowledge and skills map developed for the publication Competences for the Access to the Conservation-Restoration Profession (E.C.C.O. 2011, p. 26) shown in Figure 1.

Fig. 1 Minimum knowledge and skills map (EQF Level 7) of the conservator-restorer

Fig. 1 Minimum knowledge and skills map (EQF Level 7) of the conservator-restorer

It shows in detail, that research is part of conservation-restoration.

Figure from E.C.C.O. 2011, p. 26.

3Beyond the immediate need for research in the initial stages of the conservation-restoration process itself, there is also research that is conducted at educational institutions and which is closely linked to conservation-restoration education. The aim of this article is to show how research is implemented in the curriculum of the conservation-restoration education at the Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland.

Research at the Bern University of the Arts

4Since its foundation in 1997 the Bern University of applied Sciences (BUAS) is mandated to teach, to research, to offer public service and to conduct courses for continuous professional development. Being part of BUAS, research at the Bern University of the Arts1 is divided into four research areas:

  • Intermediality (mainly artist’s research),

  • Interpretation (mainly research on music),

  • Communication Design and

  • Materiality in Art and Culture2.

5In spite of research at the Bern University of the Arts being organized in a matrix structure; which means that each research area is open to every division of the University, all of them are close to one or two divisions. The research area Materiality in Art and Culture works – as its name suggests – in close co-operation with the Conservation and Restoration Division. Most of its researchers and research projects originate from this division. This close co-operation amplifies research in both areas and results in the development of relevant research questions coming from practice and teaching on one side, and on the other, in feeding the research results back to education, which contributes to advanced and sustained competence in the field – both for students and teachers. The research area Materiality of Art and Culture is supported by the Art Technological Laboratory, which is well equipped with various facilities that researchers and students can use for conservation-restoration research.

The Swiss Conservation-Restoration Campus

6With the advent of the Bologna process in 2005, all Swiss institutions educating conservator-restorers were forced to merge parts of their curricula. In order to fit the European standard the decision was taken to fulfil the E.C.C.O. Professional Guidelines III (E.C.C.O. 2004) and the ENCoRE Clarification Paper (ENCoRE 2001). As result a three years Bachelor in Conservation plus a two years Masters in Conservation-Restoration was offered.

7Four institutions spread over Switzerland; the Abegg-Foundation in Riggisberg, the Bern University of the Arts, the Haute Ecole Arc in Neuchâtel and the Dipartimento Ambiente Costruzioni e Design in Lugano (see Figure 2) combine their conservation-restoration divisions to form the Swiss Conservation-Restoration Campus (Swiss CRC3). All institutions are part of Universities of Applied Sciences, they deliver different specialities and are full members of ENCoRE. In spite of all this common ground the schools teach in different languages: The Abegg-Foundation and the Bern University of the Arts in German, the Haute Ecole Arc in French, the Dipartimento Ambiente Costruzioni e Design in Italian. In joint lectures, English is used as the lingua franca of science, and there is even a cultural difference between the partner institutions, which is hard to describe.

Fig. 2 The four Institutions of the Swiss Conservation-Restoration Campus and their distribution in Switzerland

Fig. 2 The four Institutions of the Swiss Conservation-Restoration Campus and their distribution in Switzerland

The Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale (HES-SO) – Haute Ecole Arc – Conservation-Restauration (HE-Arc CR) in Neuchâtel, the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) – Bern University of the Arts (BUA) – Conservation and Restoration in Bern, the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) – Abegg-Foundation in Riggisberg and the Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera Italiana (SUPSI) – Dipartimento Ambiente Costruzioni e Design (DACD) in Lugano.

Map from Wikimedia Commons, public domain, modified by Sebastian Dobrusskin.

8Due to this collaboration, a three year Bachelor in Conservation is offered at each institution, in which the first four semesters consist of general studies. In the fifth and sixth semester the students attend courses in one specific field in conservation according to their choice of specialisation at any of the Swiss CRC institutions.

9Following the Bachelor studies a two year Masters in Conservation-Restoration is offered, which builds on the specialised studies of the Bachelor degree. Amongst others and as a result of the strategic plan, launched in 2014, the aim of integrating applied research into conservation-restoration practices is explicitly expressed (Swiss CRC 2016).

10It is possible and we encourage our students to add practical training after the Bachelor studies in order to gain more experience. The basic structure of the Bachelor and Master Program is shown in Figure 3.

Fig. 3 Bachelor's and Master's program

Fig. 3 Bachelor's and Master's program

The basic structure of the Bachelor and Master’s program of the Swiss CRC.

Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016.

Research at the Bern University of the Arts’ Conservation and Restoration Division

11During Bachelor studies the students get familiar with the basics of scientific work and are exposed to an optional series of evening presentations showing recent advances in research from different fields in conservation-restoration and beyond. The presenters are either our own researchers or invited guest specialists. These presentations are open to public and attract professional conservator-restorers as well as interested students and lecturers from other departments. The following interdisciplinary discussions with the experts are an excellent platform for networking.

12The Bachelor program was restructured recently and is now based on the E.C.C.O. Competence Map developed for the European Qualification Framework (EQF) (see Figure 1). The curriculum is described accordingly by learning outcomes, rather than teaching contents. This turned out to be a much better fit for the joint curricula of the Swiss CRC, respecting the different culture of teaching in the respective institutions.

13Since 2015 the study program also contains Major and Minor module groups as shown in Figure 4. The Major courses correspond to the specialisation chosen in Conservation-Restoration (e.g. Paintings and Sculpture or Graphic Art, Books and Photography). The Minor courses can either focus on a certain topic of the Major program or give insight into additional specialities.

Fig. 4 Studies in conservation-restoration

Fig. 4 Studies in conservation-restoration

The structure of the specialised studies in conservation-restoration at the Bern University of the Arts.

Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016.

Minor Research

14For Master students with an explicit interest in research the Minor Research is offered allowing direct access to active research projects. During the first semester the student gets familiar with the research project, with the specific topic to work on and with the current state of the art. This includes the study of the literature, the project plan and a written report, which is the basis for evaluation. In the second semester the student will work on the topic, which was prepared during the first semester. During this time the student is coached by an experienced researcher, but has to work independently to a certain degree. The documentation of the student’s work is again basis for evaluation. The first part of the Minor Research is accredited with five ECTS, the second part with ten ECTS, equivalent to 150 and 300 student working hours respectively. This Minor is limited by the availability of appropriate research projects and is seen as a typical win-win situation since the student gains research experience, ECTS and will be quoted as a member of the research team. The research project gains man-power and the researcher coaching the student is paid for this task separately. Furthermore it can be used as the basis for a Master thesis.

15The Minor Research was introduced as a pilot in 2015 and has been chosen by two students since. As an example one student, Andreas Hochueli sent a poster of his work, which was produced for the ENCoRE Conference “Education and Research in Conservation-Restoration” in Cambridge (Hochueli, Zumbühl 2016).

The Swiss CRC Research Course

16Swiss CRC common courses are compulsory for all students of the different institutions. One of four courses is offered every semester and is held and organized by one of the institutions. They cover topics, relevant for all specialisations and one of them is on Research. The courses are divided into preliminary studies, a course week and final studies. The students meet physical only during the course week, preliminary and final studies are conducted at their home institutions. But they have to work in teams, are coached online with the support of a moodle platform and have to get into contact with their team partners from the other institutions via online tools like e-mail or video conferences. The official language of the Swiss CRC courses is English in order to make it the same challenge for all of the participants. In the beginning the organizing teachers team thought that language would be a main problem, but it turned out to work quite easily. Different levels of knowledge and interest in research were found to be a bigger challenge…

Master Focus Research

17In Autumn 2012 a pilot project was started targeted at conservators-restorers who:

  • got a pre-Bologna Diploma (four years study),

  • that are highly qualified and specialised through their professional work,

  • that are interested in achieving a MA-Certificate in conservation-restoration,

  • and want to focus on research in conservation-restoration.

18The main difference to an ordinary study is that these candidates develop a research proposal as a substitute for a Master’s thesis. The writing of the research proposal is coached by an experienced researcher and is accompanied with advanced lectures on research, conference attendance, appropriate to the research topic and small presentations. As shown in Figure 5 this program generates the missing 60 ECTS of a Master’s degree. External experience gained during professional work equivalent to the study program can be accredited up to a maximum of 30 ECTS. The pilot attracted three students, which all got their MA-Certificate in 2015. One of the research proposals is already funded and will start in the next months. The second research proposal is in the state of Evaluation and the third will be developed further since this Conservator-Restorer will write her PhD on this topic.

Fig. 5 The pilot Master Focus Research

Fig. 5 The pilot Master Focus Research

The pilot Master Focus Research in comparison with the ordinary Bachelor and Master Program.

Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016.

Graduate School of the Arts (GSA)

19The Graduate School of the Arts started in Autumn 20114. It was developed as cooperation between the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern and the Bern University of the Arts in order to offer practice based Dissertations, which are coached from both institutions in order to guarantee both, scientific / humanistic excellence and practical, “down to earth” relevance. Unfortunately Master graduates from the Bern University of the Arts are not able to sign in directly, since some Universities in Switzerland do not accredit the Master diplomas of Universities of Applied Sciences. As shown in Figure 6, those students interested in a PhD have to pass the Master in Research on the Arts5 first, a program that accredits 60 ECTS from the Master in Conservation and Restoration, but asks for another Masters thesis. At present the GSA has 35 PhD students working in the following fields:

  • Archaeology

  • Design

  • Art History

  • Literature

  • Music

  • Social Anthropology

  • Dance

  • Theatre

20Only a few Conservator-Restorers were attracted by this program since it is limited to the specialities of the Faculty of Humanities. But the research area Materiality in Arts and Culture is working hard on an equivalent program for the natural sciences, especially since doctorate programs are known to be excellent “drivers” for research projects.

Fig. 6 The Graduate School of the Arts (GSA) depicts collaboration between the Bern University of the Arts and the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern

Fig. 6 The Graduate School of the Arts (GSA) depicts collaboration between the Bern University of the Arts and the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern

The MRA (Master Research on the Arts) bridges between the University of Applied Sciences and Master at general university level and opens the door to PhD programs.

Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016

Conclusion

21As shown above, several steps were undertaken to enhance the impact of research in the education of conservator-restorers. Further measures such as the founding of a Graduate School for Conservation Sciences (GSCS) are planned in the near future, as is an evaluation of how teaching itself can be optimized, taking into account that research is a process of learning (Guerin, Bartholomew, Nygaard 2015). Looking at the demands of the profession, it is essential to foster research, its methods and thinking as part of conservation-restoration education in order to gain knowledge and understanding of our cultural heritage.

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Bibliography

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2016): Research. (last visit 28.03.2016) http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/research

E.C.C.O. (2011): Competences for Access to the Conservation-Restoration Profession. 2nd ed., Brussels, European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations (E.C.C.O.), [ISBN 978-92-9900010-6-6], online at: https://www.academia.edu/7104228

E.C.C.O. (2004): Professional Guidelines (III). Brussels, European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations (E.C.C.O.). online at: http://www.ecco-eu.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ECCO_professional_guidelines_III.pdf

ENCoRE (2001): Clarification of Conservation/Restoration Education at University Level or Recognised Equivalent. European Network for Conservation Restoration Education (ENCoRE). online: http://www.encore-edu.org/ENCoRE-documents/cp.pdf

Guerin, Cally; Bartholomew, Paul; Nygaard, Claus (2015): Learning to research – Researching to learn. Oxfordshire: Libri Publishing [ISBN 978-1-909818-66-8]

Hochueli, Andreas; Zumbühl, Stefan (2016): Characterisation of the “specific polarity” of aged terpeneous rein coatings using IR spectroscopy to predict the solubility of varnish materials. online: https://www.hkb.bfh.ch/fileadmin/PDFs/Campus/Kunsttechnologisches_Labor/Poster_ENCoRE_2016_A4.pdf

Swiss CRC (2016): Master in Conservation-Restoration. (last visit: 28.03.2016) http://www.swiss-crc.ch/html/master.html

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Notes

1  More information on the Bern University of the Arts at: https://www.hkb.bfh.ch/en

2  Detailed information on the research area Materiality in Art and Culture at: https://www.hkb.bfh.ch/en/research/forschungsschwerpunkte/fspmaterialitaet/

3  More information on the Swiss CRC can be found at: http://www.swiss-crc.ch/

4  Further Details at: http://www.gsa.unibe.ch/

5  Further Details at:
http://www.philhist.unibe.ch/studies/study_programs/master_s_in_research_on_the_arts/index_eng.html

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List of illustrations

Title Fig. 1 Minimum knowledge and skills map (EQF Level 7) of the conservator-restorer
Caption It shows in detail, that research is part of conservation-restoration.
Credits Figure from E.C.C.O. 2011, p. 26.
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5019/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 920k
Title Fig. 2 The four Institutions of the Swiss Conservation-Restoration Campus and their distribution in Switzerland
Caption The Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale (HES-SO) – Haute Ecole Arc – Conservation-Restauration (HE-Arc CR) in Neuchâtel, the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) – Bern University of the Arts (BUA) – Conservation and Restoration in Bern, the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) – Abegg-Foundation in Riggisberg and the Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera Italiana (SUPSI) – Dipartimento Ambiente Costruzioni e Design (DACD) in Lugano.
Credits Map from Wikimedia Commons, public domain, modified by Sebastian Dobrusskin.
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5019/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 368k
Title Fig. 3 Bachelor's and Master's program
Caption The basic structure of the Bachelor and Master’s program of the Swiss CRC.
Credits Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016.
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5019/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 200k
Title Fig. 4 Studies in conservation-restoration
Caption The structure of the specialised studies in conservation-restoration at the Bern University of the Arts.
Credits Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016.
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5019/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 312k
Title Fig. 5 The pilot Master Focus Research
Caption The pilot Master Focus Research in comparison with the ordinary Bachelor and Master Program.
Credits Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016.
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5019/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 188k
Title Fig. 6 The Graduate School of the Arts (GSA) depicts collaboration between the Bern University of the Arts and the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern
Caption The MRA (Master Research on the Arts) bridges between the University of Applied Sciences and Master at general university level and opens the door to PhD programs.
Credits Credits: Sebastian Dobrusskin 2016
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5019/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 220k
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References

Electronic reference

Sebastian Dobrusskin, « Research and Teaching – an Indispensible Requirement of Academic Conservation-Restoration Education », CeROArt [Online], HS | 2017, Online since 16 June 2017, connection on 24 September 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/5019

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About the author

Sebastian Dobrusskin

Sebastian Dobrusskin (* 1960) studied conservation-restoration at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He worked as conservator-restorer for photographs at the Institute for Restoration of the National Library of Austria before Gerhard Banik and he started to set up the degree course Conservation and Restoration of Graphic, Archival and Library Materials at the State Academy of Art and Design, Stuttgart as head of workshop. In 1993 he set up the degree course Conservation and Restoration of Graphic Art, Books and Photographs as professor at the Bern University of the Arts and is – parallel to his teaching – head of the Research Area Materiality in Art and Culture since 2005. He is an elected Member of the committee of the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations (E.C.C.O.) since 2005, serving as Vice President since 2012 and as expert to the Concil of Europe’s CDCPP since 2016. sebastian.dobrusskin@bfh.ch

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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