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Getty announces internship programme to counter lack of diversity among art conservators

Noting barriers to students of colour, it establishes yearlong training stints with $30,000 grants

The field of art conservation has been notably inaccessible to people from minority backgrounds in the US Getty Foundation

Mindful of the obstacles to students without significant financial resources, the Getty Foundation today announced an internship programme in art conservation that is intended to benefit potential graduate students from diverse backgrounds.

The Getty notes that a shortage of people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds is a troubling phenomenon in art conservation, making it one of the least equitable areas in the museum field. Applicants to the limited number of graduate programs in conservation typically must have completed courses in art history, science and studio art along with 1,000 hours of training as interns, normally unpaid, the Getty says.

The internship programme is one of the first in the US to provide a year of support to young people with bachelor’s degrees who aspire to a career in the field. “This new programme seeks to reduce the very real barriers to professional careers in conservation faced by many students of colour,” says Tim Whalen, the director of the Getty Conservation Institute.

Diversity in the art conservation field is a daunting goal, and the inaugural year of the programme could prove a test of how small initiatives like these may bear fruit.

The first three interns accepted by the program for 2020-21 have already begun residencies in the antiquities and paintings departments of the Getty Museum and the conservation department of the Getty Research Institute in Malibu, California, the Getty says. Each will receive a grant of $30,000 for the yearlong programme and help with tuition reimbursement and attendance at professional conferences. The institution adds that the interns have started their residencies remotely because the Getty is still closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Getty is already fielding inquiries for applicants to the 2021-22 class.

Additional activities for the 2020-21 interns are planned in concert with a phalanx of other Los Angeles museums, also through virtual connections. The Getty says the interns are being mentored, and taking online prerequisite courses at Santa Monica College in California.

“Through the Getty’s internship, I hope to gain an opportunity to connect to something more significant than myself for the enrichment and enhancement of the black community,” one of the interns, Kiera Hammond, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC, was quoted by the Getty as saying.