What's Old is New Again
More than 400 students have graduated from Queen’ University’s Master in Art Conservation (MAC) program and founder Ian Hodkinson has proudly kept track of many of them. For 40 years, graduates of MAC - the only program like it in Canada - have gone on to important positions at museums all over the world.
“We have students in key museum positions all over,” says Mr. Hodkinson with a smile. “I’m just over the moon with how this program has turned out thanks largely to the talented colleagues who helped get it started and have improved it over the years.”
Mr. Hodkinson felt there was a better way to train conservators than he had experienced and realized that Queen’s had all the ingredients necessary for an integrated interdisciplinary conservator training program within the Department of Art. In 1970 he met with Duncan Sinclair- then Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, who encouraged him to approach then Principal John Deutsch with his proposal
Second year students Laura Hashimoto (l) and Lauren Buttle discuss a painting with Ian Hodkinson during a visit last week.
“He was enthusiastic about the idea so we continued the process of approval,” says Mr. Hodkinson. “I presented the proposal within Queen’s and to various organizations and levels of government – 28 times in all – until it was approved.”
However it was not until 1972 with the announcement of a new National Museums Policy and the creation of the Museums Assistance Program that funding became available to realize the dream
The first intake of 12 students was in 1974 and the first cohort graduated in 1976. The students spent the first year in the basement of Gordon Hall before the program moved to its current location on Bader Lane, behind the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.
Rona Rustige, Curator of Cultural Property at the Glanmore National Historic Site in Belleville, has worked with Queen’s MAC students for more than 25 years. She has first-hand knowledge of the skill and dedication of the students as they have worked on a wide range of Glanmore pieces.
“When Queen’s works on our pieces, I always put them proudly on display, they never go back into storage,” says Ms. Rustige. “Queen’s has worked on about 100 of our pieces. It’s expensive to get conservation work done so we are fortunate Queen’s has such an exemplary program. Museums just don’t have a lot of money to spend on conservation.”
Ms. Rustige said it’s also a benefit Queen’s has three streams of conservation – fine art, paper and objects. Glanmore currently has nine pieces undergoing conservation at Queen’s.
On a recent visit to the MAC labs, Mr. Hodkinson took a number of opportunities to interact with students and ask questions about their work. The professor emeritus says his favourite memories are summers spent with his students, doing internship work in the field. Two project highlights include the conservation of The Croscup Room, a group of scenic wall murals in Nova Scotia, now in the National Gallery of Canada, and the Church of Our Lady of Good Hope in the Northwest Territories. The church is now a national historic site.
“Those are special memories. They were wonderful experiences for the students,” says Mr. Hodkinson, “and an important extension of their studies in the labs at Queen’s to help them achieve the success that they have.”
The public is welcome to visit the MAC labs and interact with staff and students during the open house Saturday, April 25 from 12:30-2 pm.
Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research, for example in conservation science.