The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) announced today the launch of a new NGC Conservation Internship Program for Diversity dedicated to Indigenous and Black students, and students from other cultural communities from across Canada.
Created and led by the National Gallery of Canada, in collaboration with the Art Conservation program at Queen’s University and the Canadian Conservation Institute, the NGC’s Conservation Internship Program for Diversity aims to increase the representation of professionals from diverse communities.
The program is designed to provide the best possible start for students pursuing a career in conservation. It will enable them to develop a network with professionals in the field who have experience they can draw upon throughout their studies and career.
This initiative allows four (4) students to benefit from the program before they go on to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, to formally study art conservation as part of the Master’s program. This is the only training in Conservation in Canada at this level. Each intern will be provided with a $25,000 bursary.
“Like many professions within the museum field, conservation is a discipline with its roots planted firmly in European tradition. Our field will greatly benefit from different perspectives from various fields of study, and different voices from diverse backgrounds and cultures,” said NGC Director of Conservation and Technical Research, Stephen Gritt. “The National Gallery of Canada is happy to show some leadership in this area and believe this project will lead to broader benefits.”
Interns have the opportunity to become familiar with some of the complexities of conservation and restoration work, including research, technical examination, and the historic and ethical dimensions of interaction with art and artefacts. From three to five months they will be paired with various experts from the Gallery’s Restoration and Conservation Laboratory and will follow them in their daily work as observers. They will also be introduced to Conservation Science and broader Heritage preservation issues at the Canadian Conservation Institute, also in Ottawa.
The program began last June with a first intern, Caribbean-Canadian Tirza Harris (she/her) originally from Kingston, Ontario.
“I am very fortunate to have been able to spend my summer at the National Gallery of Canada, especially with COVID-19 restrictions making visiting labs or gaining preprogram experience difficult. I arrived at the Gallery with no practical conservation experience. Though I have spent time attending webinars and conferences to gain a general background in conservation, the nature of this work means time spent in a lab is especially formative,” said intern Tirza Harris. “This internship is an open space for exploration, meaning that I was able to arrive at the NGC every week and spend time speaking with conservators to best understand various aspects and problems within conservation. My time at the NGC restoration-conservation laboratory has afforded me time to speak with conservators about their career paths, and to see how different specializations approach treatments can creatively address problems. Conservation is fundamentally interdisciplinary and reaching across departments only strengthens my approach as an emerging conservator.”
Tirza attended Bishops University where she earned a B.A. Hons in Classical Studies with a focus on classical art and languages, and double minor in History and Religion. During her second year, she received a project fund to attend a mosaic school in Ravenna, Italy to make mosaics with Byzantine materials and techniques. She then earned an M.A. in History and Philosophy of Religion at Concordia University, specializing in medieval Christian literature, art, and ecotheology. Upon graduation, Tirza worked at Mosaika Art & Design in Montreal, QC, working with smalti, ceramic, and stained glass. She discovered art conservation at a young age and was initially discouraged from pursing the career, but encouragement from a co-worker and the pleasure of working hands-on with mosaics, she was prompted to reconsider. A pre-program intern in the paintings specialization at Queens, Tirza is interested in exploring various art forms and media. Primarily a painter and mosaicist, she has explored textiles, ceramic wheel throwing, block printing, and gilding.
The profession of art conservator is a multidisciplinary field that brings together the study of art and history of humankind, with the physical sciences and the history of technology.
The Gallery has produced a short video for students at the high school, college and university levels to introduce them to the field of cultural heritage conservation, which they may not have yet considered as a profession.
Students interested in pursuing a career as an art conservator who would like to learn more about the internship program can contact the Gallery at: [email protected].
About Conservation at the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada has a large conservation department, with specializations in the areas of contemporary art, paintings and frames; sculpture and decorative arts; through to prints, drawings and photographs. The team of conservators treat nearly 2,000 works each year, drawing from the extensive national collection.
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