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David Park - Course Overview

Last Updated:

30th May 2013

Well, I run the conservation of wall painting departments of the Courtauld Institute of Art. And it's a three MA program that we run here. And it's the only one that in its field in the English-speaking world. We like to think it's the main one anywhere in the world.

What we do is, it's a very unusual course, and, in that we only take about eight students once every three years. In fact, the next intake is going to be in October 2013. And it's three year MA, as I say. And the reason it's that long is because the students do so many different types of work. They do art history, they do practical conservation; much of which is done on site in different countries around the world. They do all the science that's necessary for their teaching here. And they do a research dissertation and so on. So, the whole thing takes three years; and that then qualifies them very well in this particular field.

In terms of facilities, again, we're a very unusual department because we have good library facilities, we have a wonderful archive, part of which you see around me, which is called the National Survey of Medieval Wall Painting, which is the main archive on medieval wall paintings, in this country, for photographs, and other information.

Because we have different projects in so many different countries, much of our actual facilities and worksites are abroad, in India and other countries like that. So, we do less work at the Courtauld itself, in terms of actual conservation work, than we do elsewhere, of course.

The way that the students are taught, the practical element of the conservation course, is through working on site. Because, obviously, wall paintings are all on site. And we tried to give them as varied and interesting experience as possible. The students on the current course, for example, are working three different sites: one in a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan, very remote kingdom in the Himalayas; one in a wonderful 18th-century fort, with decorated palaces in Rajasthan, in India; and also in a medieval cave monastery in Georgia; again, a very remote area near the Turkish border.

So they have these incredible experiences of working on these major paintings of completely different types. And I think that's one of the things which students find most exciting about the program.

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