The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a federal grantmaking agency and a member of a historic US government cultural mission to Cuba, has announced it will provide a grant to a distinguished group of US art conservators to visit Cuba to learn about preservation challenges and methods.
The $30,000 grant will go to the Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware, one of the leading conservation programs in the US. The grant will support a delegation of students and professors who will visit Cuba to have a cultural exchange with their Cuban counterparts about conservation methods and practices.
The delegation will be led by Professor Debra Hess Norris, one of the world’s leading preservation experts, and Jocelyn Alcantara-Garcia, Ph.D., a bilingual conservation research scientist. These professors and their graduate students plan to talk with their Cuban counterparts about their preservation challenges and methods, see Cuban collections, and visit museums, libraries, and archives.
The first delegation is planning a trip this year. The mission will primarily focus on photographic collections in Cuba’s libraries, archives, museums and historic houses. “Photographs, while often vulnerable, connect cultures and humanity and are valued worldwide,” says Debra Hess Norris, the director of the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. “Cuba has a thriving contemporary art scene that is richly connected to photography so these collections seemed like a great place to focus our efforts.”
The Delaware art conservation program is run jointly with the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, a premier museum of decorative arts with a collection of nearly 90,000 objects made or used in the US between 1640 and 1860. Graduates of the program have assisted with the preservation of notable treasures such as the world’s first photograph, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Dead Sea Scrolls, decorative murals in the United States Capitol and at Radio City Music Hall, and works of art by artists ranging from Rembrandt to Picasso and Andy Warhol.
NEH Chairman William D. Adams was a member of the US government cultural mission to Cuba from April 18 to 21. Adams visited cultural sites and met with Cuban officials and cultural leaders to begin a new US-Cuba cultural exchange.
NEH supports preservation and conservation projects as part of its grant-making in the humanities to help ensure that materials that can illuminate history and culture are available for future generations. Since the agency’s founding in 1965, the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded 80 grants totaling $2.5 million to scholars, educators, and filmmakers who make Cuba the focus of their work.
Since the agency’s founding in 1965, the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded 80 grants totaling $2.5 million to scholars, educators, and filmmakers who make Cuba the focus of their work.
The Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation began in 1974 and graduating students have trained and worked as curators and directors for museums, historic sites, and other cultural organizations. The University of Delaware and Winterthur program officials will work with their Cuban counterparts to plan the trip details, including the date and which collections and sites to visit.