The history of the School of Conservation

Starting in the age of absolute monarchy, the maintenance and preservation of royal collections and monuments (what was later to become known as cultural and natural heritage) was undertaken by craftsmen, tradesmen and artists etc.- usually appointed by the court or, for example, by the Academy of Fine Arts. The buildings of the realm (castles, manor houses and churches etc.) also tended to be maintained by specialist craftsmen and, to a certain extent, architects and artists.

Specialisation in the particular conditions related to the preservation of existing entities (as opposed to replacing, changing or producing new) progressed slowly with the establishment of public collections and museums in the first half of the 19th century and after adoption of the Constitution, when previously royal collections and buildings were transferred to the State.

The first-known example of actual conservator training was in the 1820s at the Royal Painting Collection.

Most conservation work in the period between the mid-19th century and more than one hundred years later was carried out either by craft workshops or in conservation workshops attached to the major museums. In all cases, any education (or the adjustment of previously acquired craft training) took place on apprentice-like terms in existing conservation workshops, but not as formalised apprenticeship training.

1966 - The River Arno bursts its banks

On 4 November 1966 the River Arno burst its banks in the ancient cultural city of Florence in northern Italy, with disastrous consequences for the historic city’s cultural heritage. Many thousands of cultural heritage objects, including arts and crafts, as well as hundreds of thousands of historical records, were subject to the flooding and were heavily water-damaged.

Conservators all over the world, especially from Scandinavia, initiated a relief response. Scandinavian public authorities allocated funds, and money was raised from collections, and Scandinavian conservators were stationed in Florence for a number of years to administer “first aid” to the many damaged cultural heritage objects.

This international collaboration inspired Scandinavia to consider the establishment of actual conservation programmes - programmes, which little by little had been established in other places in Europe in the first decades after World War II.

In Denmark, the Ministry of Culture established a working group to draw up a report on the organisation of conservation measures in Danish museums, archives and other collections AND to establish a conservation education to provide future staff for conservation efforts. The committee consisted of directors and other key members of staff and heads of conservation in national museums, archives, libraries and collections. The committee’s report - the so-called “green report” - was published in 1969. It recommended further professionalization of conservation efforts and the establishment of an actual conservation academic course.

1973 - Establishment of an independent School of Conservation

30 May 1973 saw the signing of the royal decree for the establishment of an independent School of Conservation under the aegis of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and that autumn the School of Conservation initiated its courses in borrowed premises at various museums, libraries and archives, with office space in the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ other schools on Kongens Nytorv. Teaching of courses in the techniques of restoration and conservation etc. began in the three departments: Graphics, Cultural History and Art. There were a total of 20 students. In the following years, a new intake of 20 conservation technique students was admitted every second year. Upon completion of the three-year course, certain students continued with further education as conservators: a two-year supplement. The course in restoration techniques was established at the same time.

1976 - The first group of students graduate.

In 1976 the first students graduated as restoration technicians from the School of Conservation, followed shortly by the first conservation technician graduates. In the years that followed, the majority of conservation technicians found immediate employment, which for many years had been crying out for professionally trained conservation staff. In 1979 the first qualified conservation technician graduated as a conservator from the School of Conservation, the first qualified post-graduate student from the full five-year course.

1976 - The School of Conservation moves to Esplanaden

In 1976 the School of Conservation acquired its own premises at Esplanaden 34 and, in the following years, the premises at Esplanaden were expanded, incorporating the school’s secretariat, which moved from Kongens Nytorv.

1992 - Teachers of the School of Conservation are granted the right to research

In 1992 teachers at the School of Conservation were granted a 25% right to research, financed by admitting students every third year, instead of every second year, but maintaining the same number of qualified graduates at the end of the three-year conservation course.

1994 - New departments

In the early 1990s the Danish government wanted to see more young people enrolled in the courses. Consequently, the School of Conservation established two new areas of education to accommodate two areas, which had hitherto been covered to a lesser extent by the School of Conservation’s three existing departments. 1994 saw the establishment of the Monumental Art department, and 1995 the Natural History course. That meant that the School of Conservation now admitted 40 new undergraduate students every three years.

1998 - The School of Conservation celebrates its 25th anniversary

In 1998 the School of Conservation celebrated its 25th anniversary with the conference, 25 Years School of Conservation. That also included the establishment of the pan-European network, ENCoRE (European Network for Conservation-Restoration Education) with secretarial services at the School of Conservation. The then Rector, René Larsen became the first Chairman of ENCoRE’s board.

1998 – The School of Conservation is recognised as an institution of higher education

In 1998 the School of Conservation was recognised as an institution of higher education and the courses were changed. The conservation technician course became a BSc in Conservation Science and the conservator course became an MSc in Conservation Science. In 2000 the first MSc student graduates, and in 2001 the first BSc students graduated from all five programmes.

2004 - The right to educate PhDs and Doctors

Research assessment of the School of Conservation took place in 2000, and in 2004 the School of Conservation was granted the right to educate PhDs and Doctors.

2007 - The first PhD from the School of Conservation

2007 saw the first PhD graduate in conservation science at the School of Conservation. Up until then, graduates from the School of Conservation could only achieve a PhD by studying in collaboration between the School of Conservation and degree-granting universities in Denmark and abroad and with PhD degrees in related subject areas, e.g. chemistry and archaeology.

2010 – More students

In 2010 the number of students admitted to the School of Conservation increased yet again. Now the School of Conservation takes in 50 undergraduate students every three years.

2011 - merger of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Denmark’s Design School and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation.

On 2 June 2011, the merger of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Denmark’s Design School and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation became a reality. The new institution is called the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.