Queen’s art conservation receives $632 000

Funding to help research and conservation of Indigenous arts and culture

The funding is expected to contribute to Indigenous art conservation.

Announced on Feb. 27, the Queen’s Art Conservation program received a $632,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Granted over the course of five years, the funding will be used to help the faculty increase its representation of Indigenous art and culture. 

This will be done through the stronger inclusion of Indigenous scholars and traditional knowledge keepers. They’ll be invited to consult on course curriculum and symposiums on the development of new curriculum in art conservation to help deal with Indigenous art and culture.

All this knowledge will be further used to create online courses aimed at engaging non-University students. 

The program’s director Rosaleen Hill described the many benefits of the grant.  

“What we are trying to do is increase diversity within the profession, diversity within  the curriculum, and we also want to make the research and findings available as widely as possible,” she said. 

Hill added that, beginning next academic year, the grant will allow for six visiting scholars and traditional knowledge keepers to come to Queen’s to expand the knowledge available to students.

The focus of these scholars will be to give students a greater appreciation of Indigenous materials, new media conservation and different views on ethics and conservation worldwide. 

In accompaniment, the Indigenous knowledge keepers or elders will work to advise conservators to interact with their art with more cultural sensitivity. These advisors are to be drawn from Indigenous communities across the globe.

(Photo by Nicole Langfield)

Patricia Smithen, associate professor of Paintings Conservation, explained the grant will teach students about the importance of respecting the context of the art and allowing this sensitivity to inform the conservation. 

“If you’ve got an international object from a community we don’t have a lot of familiarity with … it may not be okay to clean because the history of the object overrides the more traditional western approach where we like things to be clean and pretty,” she said about approaching conservation from a culturally respectful perspective.  

On the whole, the focus of the grant will be to expand students’ knowledge of Indigenous art conservation with traditional methodology.   

“I think this grant is really crucial to the Art Conservation program because it allows us to focus our efforts on a wider range of objects,” Paige Van Tassel, a master’s candidate in the program said. “It also allows us to integrate traditional knowledge and experiential learning into how we treat artifacts. “

More thorough Indigenous representation, and the introduction of free online courses to non-University students, made up the proposal that won the grant for Queen’s will become a reality in the next academic year.

“Being an Indigenous person myself, [this grant] really gives me a lot of passion and drive for what I do,” Van Tassel said. 

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