Columbia College Chicago

Art and Materials Conservation, BA

Columbia’s Art and Materials Conservation BA program is a rigorous, chemistry-heavy program that was developed based on research of graduate programs in Art Conservation around the United States. One of the few undergraduate programs of its kind in the country, it is designed to prepare you to be accepted into—and succeed in—competitive art and materials conservation graduate programs.

Your time in the classroom is focused on the fundamentals of the chemical and physical properties of art materials, as well as art and art history. But you won’t just learn in the classroom. In your third year of the program, you’ll travel with your fellow students to Columbia’s partner school, Lorenzo de Medici Italian International Institute in Florence, Italy, where you’ll work with renowned art conservators and professors. In your fourth year, you’ll gain invaluable experience working with Chicago-area conservators through internships coordinated by the department.

What to Expect Your First Year

In your first year, you’ll build the foundation of your education to prepare you for hands-on work in your third year. You’ll take basic coursework related to art conservation, including Chemistry of Art and Color and Chemistry of Artifact Conservation. You’ll also take elective classes in the humanities, a writing and rhetoric class required of all Columbia students, and a biology course of your choice.

What to Expect Your Last Years

The second half of the program takes you into the field. Year three is spent in Florence, Italy—one of the most celebrated and art-rich cities in the world—gaining hands-on experience conserving art and artifacts. After the conclusion of this year-long immersive program, you’ll receive a certificate degree that will make you more competitive in graduate school applications.

The highlight of your last year is an internship with a Chicago-area conservator, completed in your final semester. This internship, which we coordinate for you, allows you to observe the conservation process first-hand and build relationships with top names in the local conservation field. You’ll take a capstone class, in which you’ll focus on the history, ethics and philosophy of art conservation. You’ll also begin creating your portfolio and preparing for graduate school opportunities.  

In addition to these opportunities, you’ll take classes in organic chemistry and anthropology and choose from elective classes in history and science.

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

Columbia will give you real-world experiences while you’re in school. In the Art and Materials Conservation program, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Participate in hands-on practice and study at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Italian International Institute in Florence, Italy
  • Intern with a local conservator
  • Find exposure to the arts through Columbia’s active community of artists
What are my internship options?

All students in the Art and Materials Conservation program are required to complete a hands-on internship with a local conservator. These internships, arranged directly by department faculty, are completed during the last year of the program. They are designed to help you gain valuable experience in conserving art and observe conservators while learning the ins and outs of the conservation business. You may be asked to conduct research on objects and their places of origin, prepare materials and solutions needed for conservation, and document the process of applying conservation treatments.


Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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