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Friday, May 30 • 4:20pm - 4:40pm
(Engaging Communities in Collection Care Session) The Vivekananda Program for Museum Excellence at the Art Institute of Chicago

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In 2012 the Art Institute of Chicago began a four-year partnership with the Indian Government to develop an educational program for mid-career museum professionals, with the goal of improving collections care within Indian museums. The Vivekananda Program for Museum Excellence was named in commemoration of Swami Vivekananda, a revered Indian philosopher who delivered an important speech at the Art Institute of Chicago during the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. Two main topics were chosen as the focus of the program: preventive care and computerized collections management. Working together with the Indian Ministry of Culture, the Art Institute has developed a series of short seminars held in India each summer, as well as longer three-week workshops held at the Art Institute of Chicago each fall, attended by a select group of Indian fellows. Six fellows from major Indian museums and the Archeological Survey of India were chosen by the Indian Ministry of Culture to attend the first workshop in September 2012. This unique, groundbreaking partnership with India has offered many surprises, but ultimately many rewards. This paper will describe the design of the preventive care portion of the Vivekananda Program in detail, including lessons learned from planning the Chicago workshops, and our experiences teaching the first two groups of Indian fellows.

The Conservation Department plays a key role in the development and implementation of the Vivekananda Program: conservators deliver lectures, lead hands-on workshops, provide tours of storerooms, galleries, mechanical rooms, conservation laboratories, and local museums, to introduce participants to a holistic approach to caring for a museum collection. To prepare for the specific interests and needs of each fellow, we designed a comprehensive survey that is completed by program participants in advance of their visits. This aids our understanding of their collections, buildings, staffing, policies, and climate. A key component of the preventive care program is a self-assessment workshop that gives the fellows the tools to carry out a thorough evaluation of their home institutions and to prioritize short-term and long-term improvement projects.

Upon their return to India, the fellows are required to complete tasks related to both the preventive care and collections management portions of the Vivekananda Program. Their progress is monitored through monthly conference calls and emails with Art Institute staff. This allows us to offer ongoing support and encouragement, and also provides fascinating insights into the challenges faced by our Indian colleagues as they attempt to modernize their institutions. Due to the success of our initial year, the Indian government is sending 8 new fellows for the second workshop to be held in October 2013. Additionally a group of Indian museum directors will be joining the fellows for the initial week of the Vivekananda Program – an important indication that our Indian colleagues value the program and that there is administrative support for implementing positive changes within the participating institutions.

Session Moderator(s)
avatar for Margaret Holben Ellis

Margaret Holben Ellis

Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation; Director, Thaw Conservation Center, NYU Institute of Fine Arts; Morgan Library & Museum
Margaret Holben Ellis received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Barnard College, Columbia University (1975) and completed her Master’s Degree in Art History and Advanced Certificate in Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (1979). In 1977 she joined the Paper Conservation staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she remained full-time until 1987 when she was appointed Sherman Fairchild... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens

Dr. Joelle D. J. Wickens

Conservator, Preventive Team Head and University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor, Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware
Joelle Wickens is Conservator and Preventive Team Head at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate and a University of Delaware Affiliated Assistant Professor in Art Conservation for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She gained an MA (Distinction) in textile conservation from the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton, Winchester, UK in 2003. In 2008 she was awarded at PhD from the same institution... Read More →


Rachel Freeman

Paper Conservator, Art Institute of Chicago
Rachel Freeman is an Assistant Paper Conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago. As the museum’s sole conservator dedicated to the treatment of Asian prints and paintings, she has been involved with the conservation of Japanese prints, East Asian scrolls and screens, ancient and modern Indian and Islamic paintings, and thangka. She is a veteran of several gallery renovations and is involved with climate monitoring and storage planning... Read More →

Allison Langley

Associate Paintings Conservator, Art Institute of Chicago
Allison Langley is Associate Conservator of Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has worked since 2002 carrying out treatments and research on the museum's collection of Modern European paintings, most recently the works of Picasso, Braque and Magritte. She co-authored the paper “Scientifically Investigating Picasso's Suspected use of Ripolin house paints in Still Life, 1922, and The Red Armchair, 1931,” published in... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 4:20pm - 4:40pm
Grand Ballroom B-C