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Subject: Training in architectural conservation

Training in architectural conservation

From: Jeremy Wells <jeremy>
Date: Friday, April 25, 2003
In Conservation DistList Instance: 16:61 Wednesday, April 16, 2003,
I posted an inquiry that invited a comparison between past and
present models for training in architectural conservation. I
specifically referenced the "Suggested Guidelines for Training in
Architectural Conservation" published in 1978 by the National
Conservation Advisory Council (NCAC). My post was a direct result of
reading that document in its entirety--specifically the section that
recommended a program curriculum. Admittedly, my original post
should have been more specific as it has resulted in an emotional
response from some members of the conservation community. I wish to
clarify my position and apologize for any misunderstandings that
resulted from my post to this list.

Here are my points described as clearly and succinctly as possible:

    1.  Issues of nomenclature in historic preservation vs.
        architectural conservation

        In my original post I stated that "no university in the U.S.
        offers a master's degree in architectural conservation."
        This statement is simply meant as a fact: no program in the
        U.S. explicitly offers an M.S. in architectural
        conservation. I am specifically referring to the degree as
        printed on the transcript. If a student in the U.S. wishes
        to obtain an education in architectural conservation, the
        degree program is usually an M.S. in historic preservation
        (or a variation thereof, such as a master of preservation
        studies). The 1978 NCAC recommendations appeared to be
        arguing for calling the degree an M.S. in architectural
        conservation instead of the currently accepted practice of
        granting a degree in historic preservation.

        My question: Is something being lost in the name of the
        degree? If a professional specifically seeks out a program
        in architectural conservation, why not have the degree named
        for the type of education obtained? Would this not be a
        boost to the architectural conservation profession as a
        whole? What would be the downside?

    2.  Curriculum emphases in architectural conservation

        Historic preservation degrees in the U.S., to varying
        degrees, attempt to provide a wide and diverse training in
        all aspects of preservation such as: preservation law,
        planning, site administration, design, conservation,
        architectural history, documentation, and so on. On the
        other hand, the 1978 NCAC Task Force curriculum
        recommendations only advocate training in materials
        conservation, building technology, documentation, and
        theory. If a master's program were implemented today that
        followed the NCAC Task Force guidelines, it would be the
        most narrowly focused architectural conservation program in
        the U.S. Planning issues, most especially, are entirely

        There *are*, most definitely, historic preservation programs
        with an architectural conservation emphasis that follow, to
        large measure, the guidelines proposed in 1978 by the NCAC
        (after all, I should know, I'm in one myself).

        I would be the first one to argue for a balanced and broad
        background in all historic preservation issues in a program
        that has an emphasis on architectural conservation. On the
        other hand, if an architectural conservation program were
        implemented today that exactly followed the 1978 NCAC Task
        Force curriculum recommendations, a student would receive
        significantly more education in materials science and
        building technology than any historic preservation program
        offered currently.

My question: To what degree is a broad preservation education
necessary for architectural conservators? Is a narrow focus on
architectural conservation entirely detrimental? This is not meant
to be naive as I can think of arguments in both directions.

In order to make my point clearer, I have done an analysis of the
historic preservation programs that, according to the National
Council for Preservation Education, offer an emphasis on
architectural conservation. For comparison, I have also analyzed the
suggested curriculum from the NCAC Task Force.

The curriculum for each program has been divided into the following
categories: Materials Science (MS), Building Technology and History
(BT), Law and Planning (Pl), Architectural History (AH),
Documentation (Doc), Recording (Rec), Theory (Th), and Design (Des).
This breakdown does not include a thesis or electives outside of
these areas of focus. The curricula have been ranked from highest to
lowest based on the emphasis on materials science and building
history/technology. The quantity after the category represents the
number of courses (or equivalent course units) required for the

    NCAC Task Force from 1978
    Degree: M.S. Architectural Conservation

        MS: 10     Doc: 1
        BT: 6      Rec:
        Pl:        Th: 2
        AH:        Des:

    University of Pennsylvania \
    Degree: M.S. Historic Preservation

        MS: 9.5    Doc: 1
        BT: 4      Rec: 2
        Pl: 2      Th: 1
        AH: 1      Des:

    Savannah College of Art and Design
    Degrees: M.A., M.F.A. Historic Preservation

        MS: 8      Doc: 1
        BT: 1      Rec:
        Pl: 2      Th: 3
        AH:        Des: 1

    Degree: M.S. Historic Preservation

        MS: 5      Doc: 1
        BT: 1      Rec: 1
        Pl: 3      Th: 1
        AH: 3      De: 1

    University of Texas - Austin
    Degree: M.S. Historic Preservation

        MS: 2      Doc: 2
        BT: 2      Rec: 1
        Pl: 5      Th: 1
        AH: 1      Des:

    University of Vermont
    Degree: M.S. Historic Preservation

        MS: 2      Doc: 1
        BT: 1      Rec:
        Pl: 4      Th: 1
        AH: 2      Des:

    Boston University
    M.A. Historic Preservation

        MS: 1      Doc: 1
        BT:        Rec:
        Pl: 6      Th: 1
        AH: 2      Des:

    Degree: M.P.S. (Master of Preservation Studies)

        MS:        Doc:
        BT: 1      Rec:
        Pl: 2      Th: 2
        AH: 2      Des:

As a graduate student in an architectural conservation program, I am
acutely attune to the issues I have brought up. My purpose for
discussing them is to help all of us better understand the
organization and methodologies behind historic preservation programs
in the U.S. and most specifically, the way students obtain an
education in architectural conservation.

The 1978 "Suggested Guidelines for Training in Architectural
Conservation" published by the National Conservation Advisory
Council can be found here


    **** Moderator's comments: The above URL has been wrapped for
    email. There should be no newline.

Graduate historic preservation programs and their emphases can be
found at <URL:>


                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:64
                  Distributed: Friday, April 25, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-16-64-007
Received on Friday, 25 April, 2003

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