FCTP Detailed Curriculum

The curriculum for the Furniture Conservation Training Program consisted of twelve sequential courses followed by a full-year internship. These courses were taught by numerous staff members of the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute and several dozen internationally-recognized specialists in the preservation professions. This is a list of those twelve courses, with some of the specific topics covered during them, either in open lecture sessions or closed laboratory exercises.

1. Wood Technology for Furniture Conservation

Subject areas include anatomy, identification, physical, mechanical and chemical properties, biodeterioration and control, and other environmental interactions of wood. Knowledge of these factors as they contribute to deterioration allows the prospective conservator to provide advice about and response to the problems. A session on conservation ethics and philosophy is included in this initial course of the sequence.

Specific Topics Orientation to the Furniture Conservation Training Program
Introduction to Furniture Conservation
Introduction to Wood Technology - Anatomy and Physical Structure
Wood/Moisture Relationships and Effects
Mechanical Properties and Biodeterioration of Wood
Wood Anatomy and Identification
Mechanics and Mechanical Properties of Wood
Introduction to Public Speaking

2. Examination, Analysis, and Documentation of Furniture

The theory and application of examination, documentation, and analysis techniques will be introduced. This includes information obtained from relatively simple techniques as well as sophisticated instrumental methods. Specific areas include photography, documentation reports, microscopy, radiography, and various forms of instrumental analysis modified from other research fields or specifically developed for characterizing museum objects and cultural artifacts.

Specific Topics Introduction to Examination and Documentation of Furniture
Photography of Furniture
Non-visible imaging: UV and IR illumination, examination and photography X-Radiography
Technology, process, and applications
Introduction to Analysis of Materials Associated with Furniture
Review of chemical and physical properties of museum objects Infrared Spectrometry
Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry
Introduction to Microscopy:procedures and techniques
Applied Microscopy for Furniture Conservation Examination
Non-destructive Evaluation (NDE) of Wood: Acoustic, thermal, and radiographic examination of wood
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
X-R Fluorescence and X-Ray Diffraction Analysis
Introduction to Professional and Technical Writing

3. Furniture History

European, American and some non-Western furniture design, manufacture, and construction will be surveyed to provide connoisseurship and an ability to communicate effectively with curators and other furniture caretakers. Specific emphasis is placed on national and regional variations in design, materials, and construction techniques, in addition to chronology and progression of styles. A research paper and oral/visual presentation are required for this course.

Specific Topics Eastern (Asian) Furniture
16th & 17th Century European Furniture
18th Century European Furniture
19th & 20th Century European Furniture
17th - 19th Century English Furniture
17th Century American Furniture
18th & 19th Century Southern Furniture
18th & 19th Century Middle-Atlantic Furniture
18th & 19th Century New England Furniture
Post-Industrial Furniture

4. Survey of Non-Wood Materials for Furniture Conservation

The technology, deterioration, and conservation of various materials will be addressed - including metals, ceramics, glass, leather, plastics, textiles, upholstery, paper, and others. Applied conservation treatment of these materials will be included, providing a basis for effective interaction with specialists in these disciplines.

Specific Topics
Objects conservation laboratory
glass and ceramic objects
metal objects and ormolu, furniture hardware
leather Conservation
organics (bone, ivory, rush, reed, etc.)
molding and casting replicas
electroforming metal
Paper conservation laboratory
cleaning and stabilizing paper artifacts
papier mache furniture
Patternmaking and metal casting
Textiles conservation laboratory
dyes and dyeing
cleaning and stabilizing textiles
Technology and conservation of plastics
Upholstery conservation

5. Adhesives for Furniture Conservation

Subject areas include adhesive theory and technology for wood, a survey of adhesives and their properties, adhesives used in conservation, and treatment of adhesive deterioration or failure. Particular emphasis is placed on delamination, e.g treatment of veneered objects (marquetry, Boulle-work, etc.).

Specific Topics
Adhesive Technology for Wood and for Furniture Conservation
Technology of Hide Glues
Materials and Techniques of Surface Decoration
Deterioration and Treatment of Veneered Surfaces
Fabricating Inlays
Presentations of Literature Searches (a graded exercise)

6. Structural Conservation of Furniture

The causes and treatment of structural deterioration will be surveyed, including damaged joinery, upholstery substructure, carving, and turning. The technology and practice of consolidating degraded structural materials and the ethical concerns of reconstructing and reproducing objects for interpretation or utility will be discussed.

Specific Topics Introduction to Structural Conservation
Case Studies in Structural Conservation
Minimally-Intrusive Upholstery Supports
Conservation of Wooden Maritime Artifacts
Conservation of Archaeological Wood
Technology of Wood Consolidants and Conservation of Degraded Wooden Artifacts
Case Studies in Consolidation Treatments
The Conservation of Wooden Architectural Artifacts
Advanced Wood Carving Techniques

7, 8, 9. Coatings for Furniture Conservation I, II and III

The history, technology, chemistry, properties, deterioration, and treatment of coating materials and colorants will be studied, along with color theory, finishing techniques, treatment and manipulation of existing coatings. The third coatings course will emphasize painted finishes, e.g. polychrome sculpture, decorated furniture finishes, and consolidating and inpainting surfaces.

Specific Topics - Coatings I
Introduction to Coatings Technology
History and Technology of Natural Resins
History and Technology of Synthetic Resins for Furniture Coatings
History of Woodfinishing Techniques
Contemporary Woodfinishing Materials and Techniques
Solubility Theory and Practice
Analysis of Historic Coatings
Deterioration and Conservation of Historic Coatings
Survey of Coating Resins Used in Conservation
Specific Topics - Coatings II
Evaluation of Color and Appearance
Recent Developments in Treating Degraded Coatings
Toxicity of Solvents
Natural Dyes Used in Traditional Furniture Finishes
Synthesis and Modification of Coating Materials
Synthetic Dyes for Furniture Finishes
Coloring methods used in treatments of transparent coatings
Designing a Finishing/Finish Conservation Studio
Future Directions for Research in Coatings Technology and Conservation
Specific Topics - Coatings III
Pigment History, Technology and Identification
A Selected History of Painted Furniture
Deterioration and Treatment of Panel Paintings
History, Technology and Conservation of Urushiol
Treatment of Painted Wooden objects
History and Treatment of Central European Polychrome Wooden Sculpture
Methods and materials for Inpainting
Treatment of Painted Wooden Folk Artifacts Museum
The Craft of Painted Finishes
Microscopy for Identification of Pigments
Research methods
X-Ray Diffraction

10. Conservation of Gilt Wood

Topics include history and technology of gilding materials and techniques, and the causes and treatment of deterioration. Fabrication and repair of gilding substrates will be emphasized.

Specific Topics
Gilding in the Ancient World
European Gilt Furniture
A History of Gilded Frames
The Craft of Gilding
Introduction to the Conservation Of Gilt Wood
Conserving Stenciled and Gilt Furniture
Technology and Conservation of Silver Leaf
Case Studies in Conserving Gilt Furniture
Use of Non-Traditional Techniques and Materials in the Conservation of Gilt Objects
Recent Developments in Microscopic and Microtomic Investigations of Cross-Sections
Solvent Gel and Detergent Cleaning Systems
Applied Treatment of Gilded Wood

11. Exhibition, Storage, and Handling of Furniture

This is primarily a study of collections management for furniture collections, including environmental interaction and control, collections care, and disaster preparedness. Additional discussion will focus on exhibition concerns, storage and handling, and the problems of art in transit.

Specific Topics
Environmental Contributions to Chemical and Physical Deterioration
General response guidelines to environmental deterioration
Case Studies in environmental design and control for an exhibition
Historic buildings vs. Historic artifacts
Low-tech environmental controls
Designing storage facilities
Testing storage and exhibition materials
Introduction to Microclimates
Design and Construction of Exhibition Cases
Art in Transit
Packing and shipping furniture
Collection surveys
Disaster preparation and mitigation

12. Conservation Administration

This course provides the practical background of administrative procedures in both institutional and private conservation practices. It includes museum philosophy, organization and administration, business management and law, marketing, grants, insurance, and laboratory administration and design.

Specific Topics
Who Does What in a Museum? (representatives from various museum offices)
Doing It All - The Historic House Museum Director
Philosophy of Museum Management - What is a Museum Supposed to Do?
Managing an Institutional Conservation Laboratory
Going into and Managing a Private Practice
Marketing Conservation Practices
Funding Agencies for Conservation
Fundraising and Grantsmanship
Laboratory Design
General Management Principles for Conservation
The Conservator as Manager
Principles of Law for Conservation
Insurance for Conservators

Internship in a Conservation Laboratory

The information contained in the preceding courses will be applied to conserving wooden objects during a year-long full-time internship in the studio or laboratory of an established conservator (with the approval of FCTP staff). Approximately one-fifth of the internship will be spent on research which will result in a publishable thesis. The project may address theoretical or technical issues regarding the history and preservation of wooden artifacts.

FCTP Master Reading List

For information on the FCTP Course of Study...