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Students Gain Hands-On Conservation Experience Through School of Art & Art History Internship

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Jordyn Reiland

Content and Communications Manager

Jordyn Reiland

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Emma Lynn Lehman cleaning a painting using an enzymatic solution

Emma Lynn Lehman cleans a painting using an enzymatic solution.

For pre-art conservation students Danielle Elgarat and Emma Lynn Lehman, finding ways to put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom was a challenge.

Emma Lynn Lehman cleans Alma Mater in the Harper Humanities Garden

An internship is an important way to gain “experiential training to round out a student’s time at the University of Denver” and it's also a requirement for graduation from the School of Art & Art History program, said Geoffrey Shamos, curator of the University Art Collections and director at the Vicki Myhren Gallery.

However, the number of professionals offering such internships, especially locally, has dwindled over the years and therefore it has been difficult to accommodate students, Shamos added.

Recognizing the issue at hand, Elgarat and Lehman were offered an internal internship this past summer that allowed them to work with the university’s collection under DU alumna Samantha Hunt-Durán's supervision.

Now the owner and founder of Mountain Museum Management LLC, Hunt-Durán graduated from DU with a bachelor of fine arts in pre-art conservation and a master’s degree in art history with a concentration in museum studies.

“[Samantha] understands from their perspective where they are in their training, what's expected of them, but also knows that they have been well taught and can trust them to do a lot of things to help bring them along,” Shamos said.

“In addition to understanding the students and being able to empathize with them, she was great as a mentor and supervisor, really teaching the skills and then stepping back and letting the students take over,” he added.

During the 10-week internship, Elgarat and Lehman worked with “every medium under the sun,” in addition to “adopting” one of the campus statues or pieces of public art.

“This experience better prepared me for my future by giving me the opportunity to develop the necessary skills art conservators use in their profession as well as develop my personal portfolio which will help me in my next steps when I apply for graduate school,” Elgarat, a senior in the program, said.

She particularly enjoyed learning about painting conservation as that is the area she wants to focus on when she goes on to graduate school.

“It was an interesting experience approaching art as a conservator and not as an artist, seeing my work come together from a different perspective and rather than creating art, preserving it, and understanding its artist and history,” she added.

Lehman, a senior in the program who is also minoring in chemistry, learned how to conserve an outdoor bronze statue that can be seen in the Haper Humanities Garden on campus, as well as how to conserve a painting — a topic that has become her senior project for spring quarter.

"The internship was focused on making sure that we understood many different parts of conservation and that we understood how to work on different types of art, like an outdoor sculpture and a painting. In any other internship, we would have just been along for the ride and learned how to conserve whatever they were given at the time,” she added.

Hunt-Durán saw the opportunity to mentor and teach as a chance to give back to a place that gave so much to her.

“Being the first person to expose these students to museum work and collections care is a privilege I hold dear. Seeing the students become more at home in museum spaces is very meaningful to me,” Hunt-Durán said.

"Being the first person to expose these students to museum work and collections care is a privilege I hold dear. Seeing the students become more at home in museum spaces is very meaningful to me."

Samantha Hunt-Durán

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