Carrie McNeal

Thesis: “Exhibiting Conservation: Examining public representation of art conservation in the museum setting, 1920-2011”

Abstract: My research examines public representations of art conservation in the museum setting throughout the modern period of the professionalization of that field, 1920-2011. This project posits that public representations in the form of museum exhibits, which have been largely overlooked in accounts of the field’s history, are an important yet neglected constituent of professionalization activities. To demonstrate their significance, I will examine historic case studies to determine how their content and tone align with or contribute to important events throughout art conservation’s modern history. I ask whether professionalization was achieved partly through a representational emphasis on science that ultimately led to misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the true nature of art conservation, and if this has had significant consequences both for art conservation and throughout the wider art history and museum communities. I argue that the current limited understanding of the societal and historical contexts in which the present field of art conservation developed ignores the profound impact that art conservation in the public realm has had on public understandings of art and science.

Keywords: art conservation, museology, material cultures, history of science, public engagement

Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Neswald 

 You can find information on my current work on my Academia page.