CAA/AIC Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation

The College Art Association (CAA) / American Institute for Conservation (AIC) Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation recognizes outstanding contributions by one or more persons who, individually or jointly, have enhanced understanding of art through the application of knowledge and experience in conservation, art history, and art. The joint award with AIC was first presented in 2016. (The CAA/AIC award was formerly known as the CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation.)

The deadline for 2019 nominations is August 31, 2018

Nomination Guidelines:

Please submit the following materials to by the deadline:

  • Completed nomination form 
  • Shortened CV of nominee (approximately two pages)
  • Nomination letter
  • Up to 5 letters of recommendation for the nominee
Download the nomination form here.
Copies of written work in digital or print form may be requested by the Award Committee. For more information, see the CAA website.

2018 CAA/AIC Award for Distinction in Scholarship Recipient

Paul Messier
Conservator of Photographs
Private Practice 

2017 Winner

Tom J. S. Learner

Tom Learner leads a unique, outstanding career in advancing interdisciplinary scholarship that benefits artists, art historians, conservators, and others interested in the production, conservation, and presentation of contemporary art. Trained as a conservator and a conservation scientist, he is currently Head of Science at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). Prior to this position, Learner served as Senior Scientist at the GCI and, before that, as Senior Conservation Scientist at Tate Gallery. He received a PhD in chemistry from Birkbeck College, University College London, and a diploma in painting conservation from the Courtauld Institute of Art. His PhD research focused on the characterization of acrylic paint and other media used by contemporary artists.

After publishing his doctoral research on paint media used by many important twentieth-century artists, Learner expanded his interests to ask why artists choose one medium over another and how they work with their chosen materials. This led to many collaborative research projects with artists and art historians, resulting in an impressive number of coauthored publications, published artist interviews, and public interviews with artists about their use of materials. Notably, Learner interviewed DeWain Valentine about his charcoal and polyester cast sculpture, Gray Column (1975–76). The interview was produced as a widely acclaimed video by the GCI in the context of the Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980 exhibition series. More recently, he participated in the technical art history study of Jackson Pollock’s important painting, Mural (1943)In addition to his own research, Learner led the Modern and Contemporary Art Research initiative at the GCI that supported many collaborative research projects by conservators, artists, and art historians. 

Learner generously donates his time to many local, national, and international organizations and programs that advance the collaborative research model that he helped engineer. He is an instigator of a wide range of conferences, workshops, and symposia on the conservation of contemporary art, including for the International Council of Museums–Conservation Group, the International Institute for Conservation, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. He has served on boards and advisory committees for the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art, Voices in Contemporary Art, and Rescue Public Murals.

Jury: Glenn Wharton, New York University, chair; Ellen Pearlstein, University of California, Los Angeles; and Rebecca Anne Rushfield, Conservation Consultant, New York City.

Past Winners

Conservators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and, more recently, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum have all received the CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award. Independent scholars and conservators, such as Andrea Kirsch and Rustin S. Levenson (both 2001) and John Thorpe (2006) have also been honored. Perhaps the most international of CAA awards, recipients from institutions abroad include Paolo Cherchi Usai of the National Screen and Sound Archive in Australia (2005) and Ernst van de Wetering at the University of Amsterdam (2003).

Read a list of all winners of the CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation from 1991 to the present.

- from the CAA website