K-12 Educational Resources on Conservation
Welcome to the AIC K-12 Outreach Working Group wiki page. Here you can find resources and ideas for working with K-12 students and teachers, whether in a museum, classroom, or other setting. We have gathered a list of online resources such as museum websites, blogs, and related web exhibits that introduce artists' materials and working techniques, illustrate conservation approaches and practices, and provide ideas for hands-on projects or case study topics.
If you haven't already, please start by visiting the / AIC K-12 Outreach Working Group page; the best highlights of our web search are featured there, along with other information about using conservation in the classroom.
This page will be updated periodically, so please check back often. To let us know about outdated links, ask questions or more information on our outreach programs, please email us.
- 1 The basics - finding out about conservation
- 2 Working with teachers
- 3 Ready-to-go lesson plans
- 3.1 The Michael C. Carlos Museum
- 3.2 Smithsonian American Art Museum
- 3.3 The J. Paul Getty Museum
- 3.4 The Morgan Library and Museum
- 3.5 The Walters Art Museum
- 3.6 National Museum of the American Indian
- 3.7 Making Books
- 3.8 Smithsonian Education
- 3.9 Historic Jamestown
- 3.10 Michigan Alliance for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage
- 3.11 Teachers Guide to "Sea Serpent" by Pedro Silva
- 4 Online exhibits and interactives on specific works of art
- 5 Online games
- 6 Selected sites for case studies
- 6.1 Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
- 6.2 Colonial Williamsburg
- 6.3 Kulturhistorisk Museum, University of Oslo
- 6.4 The Mariners Museum: USS Monitor
- 6.5 Metropolitan Museum of Art
- 6.6 Minneapolis Museum of Art
- 6.7 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- 6.8 Museum of Modern Art
- 6.9 Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan
- 6.10 National Museum of American History
- 7 Reference sites
- 8 Annual teacher workshops
The basics - finding out about conservation
It's often useful to start out your conversation with a teacher, museum educator, or student group with an overview of what being a conservator is all about.
Find useful information about how to talk about what we do on the AIC website and through the outreach and PR toolkits on this wiki.
Conservators are blogging and tweeting all over the world, and this can be a great way for elementary, middle and high school students to start to learn about what a conservator's job is like, and find out about new developments in our field. Check out AIC's Blogroll for up to date stories of what conservators are up to. The list includes blogs from archaeological sites, museums, historic sites, conservators in private practice, and the graduate schools, just to name a few! Bookmark the ones you like and visit often to see what's new in the world of art conservation. Students can also follow the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts of major museums and conservation organizations such as ICOM-CC and its working groups, ICCROM, IIC, the Getty Conservation Institute, and many more.
Everybody likes to learn from videos! AIC has a selection of fascinating videos about conservation, and a YouTube channel. One of our favorite art websites overall, Smarthistory.org, now has a "Creating and Conserving" theme which is rapidly filling up with great video content on the making and conservation of various types of materials and artworks.
Working with teachers
Levels of involvement
There are many different ways in which conservators can get involved in K-12 outreach, with varying levels of time and commitment required. Here are just a few ideas:
- Present at a Career Day event - how did you become a conservator, why do you find it interesting, what do you do each day?
- Open your lab or facility to small groups of students or teachers for a tour
- Make a quick YouTube video of your facility, or of you doing something interesting!
- Demonstrate how a particular art object was made - materials, techniques - and talk about how it has changed over time
- Visit a local classroom for a hands-on program or lesson plan
- Collaborate with a chemistry teacher to provide hands-on demonstrations of simple chemical reactions - spot tests, or corrosion reduction
- Look around for after-school STEM or STEAM programs that might invite you for a day
- Partner with a local collection, historic house museum or science center to introduce the field of conservation
A quick guide to state standards and lesson plan development
If you want to go further in working with art teachers, science teachers, history teachers, etc., it's helpful to know that in a public school, they are required to follow a set of standards for content at each grade level. Depending on the school the teacher may have more or less flexibility with how they teach the content, but generally have to demonstrate that what they're teaching accomplishes the goals set out by the state standards. What's great is that the standards, particularly in the sciences, emphasize processes of inquiry that are a natural fit with conservation thought processes. Visual arts standards also generally include the understanding of and investigation of materials and technological processes, and an understanding of how those differ across cultures and time periods - clearly the purview of a conservator. Browsing the state standards is just a good way to get your thoughts flowing on what you might speak about in a classroom.
State by State Standards
EducationWorld provides links to educational standards by state. Browse your state's list and think about where conservation topics can provide real-world learning in these areas.
- Example: New Mexico State Standards - Edited version of the New Mexico state standards for science and visual arts, with selections of topics that relate closely to conservation. The science list also contains notes on possible conservation topics aligning with each learning area.
How to write a lesson plan
A lesson plan template can offer a place to start when thinking about creating a conservation-based lesson plan. Here's a good article on what makes a lesson plan successful. But you don't have to write your own - see the next section for some ready-to go lesson ideas.
Ready-to-go lesson plans
This list contains some exciting lesson plans developed by conservators and educators, as well as examples published by museum education departments that touch on issues of materials and techniques. Many focus on looking closely at materials of art and cultural artifacts and thinking about how these objects change over time. Of course, nearly any conservation case study can be adapted as a lesson plan, and these prepared materials can show you the way to start making your own.
The Michael C. Carlos Museum
The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University has collaborated with Atlanta-area teachers to create eight fully-developed, ready-to-use lesson plans focusing on topics in art conservation. Case- and problem-based learning units as well as lab activities are available and have been aligned with Georgia state standards. Each topic includes a teacher and student guide, context images and additional resources.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Lunder Conservation Center at SAAM shares this excellent lesson plan that focuses on how conservators use the electromagnetic spectrum to learn more about works of art. The lesson plan includes three challenges for the students to understand the different types of questions that can be answered using wavelengths of light.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Art & Science: A Curriculum for K–12 Teachers mines the treasures of the Getty Museum to explore the many intersections of the visual arts with scientific disciplines.
The Morgan Library and Museum
The Morgan's education department presents comprehensive programs that incorporate visits to the Morgan, in-school activities and hands-on art projects that cover a wide range of elementary school topics. Each program is also tailored to meet NY state standards. Though not specifically conservation- or materials-focused, these provide excellent models for developing programs with local cultural institutions.
- The Morgan Book Project is a free program in which the Morgan collaborates with public school teachers to develop a unit of study designed to engage students in writing, illustrating, and building a book. The program is in part focused on the materials and techniques of manuscript illumination. It is an 8 month program beginning with a summer teacher workshop, continuing through gallery visits and in-class work, and culminating in an award ceremony.
The Walters Art Museum
Designed for middle school students, but adaptable for elementary and high school, the resources at the Walters use the visual arts to teach concepts in social studies, science, language arts and math curricula. All content including the printable lessons and flash interactives align with the Maryland State Curriculum. The newest installment, on Islamic Art, contains sections on the materials and manufacture of art objects.
National Museum of the American Indian
NMAI has uploaded a series of lesson plans and educational guides for K-12 teachers. A Life in Beads discusses Native American beading traditions, while To Honor and Comfort teaches about quilting traditions and techniques. Other lesson plans are also available, and relevant national standards are addressed.
A complete resource for K-12 teachers to create books in the classroom and discuss book-making, along with an extensive bibliography on books and book history for both children and adults.
A series of lesson plans offered by Historic Jamestown, one of the first English settlements in America, focuses on archaeology topics and activities for elementary through high school students. On the site's blog you can listen to archaeological conservators talk about the artifacts found and how they identify, preserve and catalog them.
Find downloadable lesson plans for grades 3-6 on Photo and Paper Preservation and Historic Buildings preservation, with activities, vocabulary and extensive references. Relevant Michigan state standards are specified for each lesson.
Teachers Guide to "Sea Serpent" by Pedro Silva
This comprehensive guide describes the context, history and materials of a large mosaic sculpture located in a Nashville playground. Activity ideas and connections to related topics as well as a glossary and a history of the mosaic technique are included. A great example of what can be done with your local public park, sculpture or monument!
Online exhibits and interactives on specific works of art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Visit the MetKids online feature for an interactive map, videos narrated by kids, and a "time machine" that leads you to featured works of art in the collection.
The IMA has dozens of fascinating blog entries, videos, and interactives on conservation topics ranging from panel paintings to outdoor sculpture.
- The Bellini interactive pages give a thorough case study of three Renaissance panel paintings, with demonstrations of what can be understood through x-radiography, infrared reflectography, and examination of samples in cross section.
- Another series of informative pages on Sebastiano Mainardi answer questions like "How was it made?" and "How do we save it?"
- The conservation-tagged posts on the IMA blog give a clear sense of the variety of objects, decisions, and challenges that conservators come across day to day.
- The IMA's YouTube channel IMAItsMyArt contains lots of great videos, many featuring conservators talking about works in the collection. Or if you prefer access them at ArtBabble, where you can find a trove of other fascinating conservation videos.
Technical Art History interactives from the University of Delaware
Visit the University of Delaware's website where you can explore virtual painting reconstructions, learn about historical materials, download K-12 educational projects, and learn about conservation science methods.
Art Conservation games - a collaboration with RIT & the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Students from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) gather information from conservators at the Met to create three games from studying techniques and materials of works of art. Learn more about the students' goals in this article, which provides links to the three interactive games that transport players to the Met's Damascus Room, to David Roentgen's workshop, as well as introduce players to electrotyping.
Murder at the Met: An American Art Mystery is an online game from the Metropolitan Museum of Art for mobile devices and tablets, to play while in the Museum.
The Walters Art Museum presents this online game for a K-8 audience. A visually rich interactive game for kids, following Waltee, a cartoon tiger, through different secret rooms to find lost treasures, discovering different artworks along the way.
Selected sites for case studies
An online exhibition documents the collaboration between graduate students in conservation and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Los Angeles, as they work together to study and preserve the museum’s collection of Native American objects. The site presents a wide range of case studies explaining the history, materials and techniques of baskets and other woven objects.
Read an article and view a slideshow of the conservation of the Carolina Room, a painted interior from an 1830s house now located in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg. The conservators removed layers of overpaint from the 1950s to reveal the original painter’s delicate work.
The museum at the University of Oslo presents case studies of the preservation of archaeological waterlogged wood, including an entire Viking ship.
View live webcams focused on the conservation of the huge pieces of the USS Monitor, a civil war ironclad ship that sank in 1862, and read about the special challenges encountered in preserving the ship and all the artifacts found in it.
Visit the pages of the various conservation labs at the Museum and read about recent study and treatment projects. One such project focused on the fading and preservation of Autochromes, early 20th-century color photographs made using one of the first color processes to be used by artists. The photographs are now almost never displayed because of their susceptibility to fading.
The Minneapolis Museum of Art presents a detailed and thorough interactive exploration of two major restoration projects on monumental 17th century Italian paintings. Makes a great case study to follow the steps of a conservation treatment.
Explore featured case studies of recent conservation projects at the museum, including paintings, sculpture, furniture and costumes. The MFA also hosts CAMEO, a searchable database of thousands of materials used in the production and conservation of artworks, which provides information on their composition, history of use, and manufacture.
The MoMA’s conservation department presents a variety of case-study based information on conservation research and decision-making. Visit the main page or check out some of the links below:
- Blog entries on conservation. Posts on the conservation treatment of Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Cake provide an entertaining case study.
Conservators from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology blog about life on an archaeological dig – what they find, how they work to preserve it, and what it’s like to spend their summers in Cyprus, Egypt or Israel. The pages also include an introduction to the conservation of archaeological materials.
- Explore this online exhibit about the conservation of the Star Spangled Banner, and learn all about the flag, the song and the history of this national treasure.
- The NMAH blog features a number of stories about conservation projects, including Thomas Jefferson's Bible, Julia Child's kitchen, and Jim Henson's puppets.
CAMEO database at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
CAMEO is a searchable database of thousands of materials used in the production and conservation of artworks, providing information on their composition, usage and manufacture. An invaluable resource!
The National Park Service
NPS offers Conserve-O-Grams, short and clearly written guides to concerns and issues with caring for and preserving museum and historic collections. These are great resources for learning about the effects of environment on art objects, and the things conservators and owners can do to protect their objects while on display or in storage.
The Canadian Conservation Institute
CCI Notes are technical references on a wide variety of museum and conservation issues, though many are written for a general audience. This is a useful reference for high school students doing independent study or in-depth projects.
ICON's Conservation Register
Icon is a UK-based conservation institute which presents useful introductory information on conservation for a general audience, including Fact sheets on different materials of art and artifacts, a great place to start for information on the deterioration and preservation of various materials. The site also has a good introduction to the reasons for deterioration of our cultural heritage, and for its preservation.
AIC's Guide to Conservation Education and Training
Visit this link to find out more about what undergraduate students need to do to enter the conservation profession. You can also find a list of conservation programs in North America. Each school also has a blog page where current students write about their projects, study abroad experiences, and thoughts on their new profession.
Annual teacher workshops
The K-12 Outreach committee has initiated a series of educator workshops held during AIC meetings at a local museum.
2013 Our inaugural workshop was held in May 2013 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art; resources provided to the teachers can be found here. The Indiana Art Educators Association wrote up the event for their Contact newsletter Fall 2013 issue.
2014 The 2014 workshop will be led by Colleen Snyder at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and will involve both local K-12 teachers and Museum educators. Links for participants can be found here.