Monday, August 6, 2012

Preservation and restoration summer programs give student a peek into career possibilities

The past two summers have allowed Monica Varner ’14 to hold history in her hands—and to make sure future generations can do the same.

Varner has traveled twice to Italy to help restore Roman paintings and artifacts. This summer, she spent eight weeks working on conservation on a historic island off the Massachusetts coast. The hands-on experience with archeology and art history opened a new world for her, she said.

Monica Varner ’14, right, spent her summer working on restoration and conservation
projects in Italy and in Massachusetts through programs connected to Randolph.
“There are these fields which I had no idea existed before I came to Randolph,” said Varner, who is from Northern Virginia. “Art history usually consists of sitting in a class and looking at a PowerPoint presentation, but in these programs, I have been fixing art, sorting it, and putting it back together.”

In 2011, she participated in the inaugural Archeological Conservation Institute, a program that the Centro di Conservazione Archeologica (Center for Archaeological Conservation) and the renowned conservationist Roberto Nardi launched in collaboration with Randolph’s classics department. Varner and five other students helped sort through rubble in a Roman villa, relaying a floor mosaic and repairing a fresco painting.

This year, Varner and six other Randolph students participated in the program, continuing the restoration work. Varner took advantage of the College’s RISE program to help pay for the experience this year.

After returning to the United States, Varner traveled to Massachusetts for Preservation Institute: Nantucket. This program run by the University of Florida lets students assist in restoration and preservation projects in one of America’s oldest settlements. This year, Varner and Laura Shearer ’12, a recent Randolph graduate, participated in the institute. Varner’s involvement was funded through an internship provided by A.J. Land and Lynne Coppage Land ’60, who pay for a current Randolph student to attend the program each year.

The RISE program and the alumna-funded preservation internship let Varner pursue interests that might have escaped her otherwise. “I'm so grateful that we have an alumna that is willing to support that scholarship every year, allowing me to come, not worry about paying for it, and be able to learn,” she said.

In the first few weeks in Nantucket, Varner and other students listened to seminars by various scholars, who gave them insight into the activities and goals of professional archeologists and conservationists. Then, Varner was paired with another student for a research project in a historic home.

“Our main goal was to extensively catalog the 54 windows and exterior doors of the Boston-Higginbotham House, which is a 240-year-old home in the historically black area of Nantucket,” Varner said. She and her research partner drew each of the windows and doors, analyzed paint samples, and made recommendations for the home’s restoration and repair.

The Preservation Institute added to the knowledge and experience Varner had gained in Italy and helped her solidify thoughts about her future studies and career. She plans to pursue graduate studies in art history and conservation.