The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, in collaboration with Wintherthur/University of Delaware, and the AIC Wooden Artifacts Group presents:

Cleaning of Decorative and Historic Finishes

August 3-7, 2015
Wilmington, Delaware
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library & the University of Delaware

Instructor: Richard Wolbers, Coordinator: Stephanie Auffret

Registration Fee
$650 AIC members; $850 non-members
Limit 12 participants.

This workshop is designed for practicing conservators.  Participants will be selected based on experience, demonstrated need/relevance, geographic reach, and opportunity to disseminate information gained. The number of participants from a single institution may be limited.  Preference will be given to AIC Professional Associate and Fellow members. Applications are due March 30, 2015, with notifications expected by April 17th.  Later applications will be considered, if space is available.

To apply for a space in the workshop, please fill out the WORKSHOP APPLICATION FORM, and email the form along with a copy of your resume or CV and statement of interest addressing the acceptance criteria to

Financial assistance is available through grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Scholarship applications must be received by FAIC by May 15, 2015.  Prospective applicants should apply for workshop admission by March 30th.  Acceptance and scholarship decisions are made independently, and applying for funding will not reduce your chances of being accepted into the workshop.  Registration fees may be paid after scholarship awards have been made.
  • FAIC/NEH Individual Professional Development Scholarship
    With financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, FAIC offers scholarships up to $1,000 to help defray registration and travel expenses for participants in the FAIC workshops supported by NEH. All current AIC members who are U.S. residents or citizens are eligible. Deadlines for receipt of applications are February 15, May 15 and September 15.

This workshop is intended for mid-career conservators who would like to gain a greater understanding of new developments in surface cleaning systems. 

Content & Outcomes
During the course of this 5-day workshop, participants will be presented with a general survey of the theoretical principles needed to evaluate, as well as formulate, for themselves, tailored aqueous and solvent based cleaning systems for wooden decorative surfaces (including varnished, painted, gilded and lacquered surfaces).  The course essentially will be structured so that the theory component of the course will be presented during morning sessions for all five consecutive days of the workshop. These morning sessions will include both the general principles of preparing cleaning solutions, as well as case histories illustrating the use of the general principles. Afternoon sessions will be devoted to the practical preparation of materials discussed in the morning sessions. The goal will be to better empower the participants to formulate tailored preparations for both surface cleaning problems (soil removal) as well as coating, adhesive, and re-paint/over-paint removal problems if appropriate.  The participants will be both invited to bring test or problematic materials to these sessions. Some expendable samples will also be provided to experiment with.  The participants will be invited to share the results of their individual experiments in a final class presentation.

The workshop will consist of lectures, practicum sessions, and discussions. The sessions will include:
  • General Theory: Surface Cleaning: Aqueous Methods (Buffers; Ionic Strength)
  • General Theory: Aqueous Methods (Chelators; Surfactants)
  • General Theory: Gel Forming Materials (I)
  • General Theory: Emulsions (I)
  • General Theory: Emulsions (II)
  • General Theory: Emulsions (III)
  • Polymeric Emulsifiers; Practicum
  • Solvent Theory
  • Solvent Gel Systems
  • Case Histories
  • Final Wrap-up and presentation of class projects
Richard Wolbers has earned degrees in Biochemistry (1971, BS University of California, San Diego); Fine Arts (1977, University of California, San Diego); and in Art Conservation (1984, University of Delaware). In 1984 he joined the faculty of the University of Delaware as part the Art Conservation department, and has been a tenured professor in the department since 1989. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the newly initiated PhD program at the University of Delaware in Preservation Studies. In addition to teaching, and fine art restoration, Wolbers has worked on major architectural restoration projects that include the US Capitol; the Eisenhower Executive Office Building; The IRS and Treasury Buildings; and the Building Museum in Washington D.C. In 2001 he published the best-selling reference book Cleaning Paintings: Aqueous Methods through Archetype Books in London. Wolbers has given workshops on cleaning fine arts materials around the world, and has innovated new cleaning, coating, and adhesive materials for restoration work through his career.  In 1990 he was featured in the Discovery Series (PBS) television program The Future of the Past. In 2006 he was awarded the American Institute of Conservation’s Lifetime Achievement award.  In 2009 he was awarded the first ever outstanding achievement award for paintings conservation by the AIC’s painting Specialty Group. 

Stephanie Auffret is an Associate Furniture Conservator at the Winterthur Museum and an Affiliated Assistant Professor in Art Conservation in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She is currently Chair of the Wooden Artifacts Group (2013-15).

Travel Information

Directions and other travel information, including recommended hotels, will be sent to all participants prior to the workshop.

This program is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Additional funding comes from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artist Works Endowment for Professional Development, which was created by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and donations from members of the American Institute for Conservation and its friends. Courses are made possible with the assistance of many AIC members, but no AIC membership dues were used to create or present this course.

Without this support, the registration fees would be approximately $1,500.


Contact: Abigail Choudhury
FAIC Development and Education Coordinator
1156 15th Street, NW, Suite 320
Washington, DC 20005

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