UCLA has received a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation intended to help increase diversity in the study and practice of art conservation, a field dominated by professionals who identify as non-Hispanic white.

The grant, titled “Introducing Conservation through Diversity Internships: A Pilot Program” will support a four-year pilot program designed to provide greater access to and information about the field of conservation by creating materials about art conservation, establishing outreach programs in schools and organizations in underrepresented communities, developing workshops for interested students and funding undergraduate internships.

“There is a distinct lack of diversity in the professional field of art conservation,” said principal investigator Ellen Pearlstein, professor of information studies and conservation at UCLA. “Non-Hispanic whites dominate leadership positions in museums, in private practice, and in education.”

According to research gathered as part of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey published in July 2015, a survey of 494 museum conservator respondents showed that 87.25 percent are white, 4.25 percent are Asian, 4.05 percent are Hispanic, 1.42 percent are African-American and 2 percent are all other groups.

“There is also an increasing interest in libraries, archives and museums themselves that celebrate diverse cultures, languages and races, including a growing number of museum collections with a Latin American focus,” said Pearlstein, founding faculty member in the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Material. “We’ve designed this program to initiate an educational pipeline into the field of conservation, and one that is more pressing than ever, considering how cultural diversity might benefit the research and interpretation of such collections and institutions.”

Beginning in January 2017 Pearlstein and other UCLA faculty will focus on planning, including the creation of an advisory committee that includes educators from other campuses and museum conservators. They hope to build a West Coast hub of ongoing activity around diversity in the field of conservation. This committee will develop proposed pilot workshops for potential conservation majors, host and advise students during pre-graduate program internships, serve as mentors and participate in applicant and program evaluations, Pearlstein said.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, outreach sessions will be held at area colleges, promoting opportunities to apply for six-day workshops for 12-15 students each, to be offered in the summers of 2018 and 2019 at the UCLA/Getty Program laboratories at the Getty Villa. Workshops will include a combination of theoretical discussions, practical exercises, and visits to museums and conservation labs in the greater Los Angeles area.

The internship program will launch during the summers of 2019 and 2020, with six internship opportunities taking place each summer. These 10-week, pre-program internships at leading conservation labs will be offered to exceptional workshop participants, as part of their preparation for graduate study.