On 27 September, the Department of UP Arts announced that it would begin to conserve over 8 600 unframed artworks from UP’s art collection. The department is responsible for managing and preserving all UP art resources, which includes all art items that are available for public exhibition in the university.

According to Prof. Theo van Wyk, Head of Department for UP Arts, “This project forms part of a strategic preservation plan by the UP Museums, which has long term and short term programmes to ensure the art and heritage collections of UP Arts are conserved.” The Department of UP Arts wants unframed art that is available in the university, which ranges from prints, etchings, engravings, drawings and watercolours, to be protected because these artworks often go unnoticed as they are always kept in the museum storage. According to Prof. van Wyk, “This collection comprises of 738 graphic artworks, mostly unframed due to their historical significance. The oldest of these artworks dates back to 1580.” The project will be overseen by the department’s museum unit, which has a “unique conservation laboratory overseeing museum conservation projects on campus.” Sandra Markgraaf, an external art conservator, is responsible for the conservation of the unframed artworks. The preservation of the unframed art by the Department of UP Arts comes after the university has been ranked in the top 300 universities worldwide for its competence in arts and humanities subjects, being placed in the 251-300 bracket by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

The unframed art preservation project includes works on paper that originate from the Van Gybland-Oosterhoff collection which dates back between the 16th and the 19th century. This art collection was donated to UP in 1937 and is the first major art donation to the university. Some of the artwork in this preservation process has revealed highly important information about some of the art pieces. This information revealed is said to hold the potential to assist History and Art scholars in the university and those interested in this kind of information for their academics, and will also contribute towards research purposes in the university. Prof. van Wyk informed Perdeby that from 2018 UP will have an Honours degree in Heritage, Museum and Conservation Studies, and a Master’s Degree in Tangible Heritage Conservation studies from 2019. The postgraduate degrees will be firsts for the African continent and will “[form] part of the vision of the University becoming the home for Art and Heritage conservation in Africa”. Prof. van Wyk said that the project would be a long term initiative as it is for an extensive collection with several other preventive conservation projects planned for the museum collections are until 2025.

Photo: Anotidashe Mukombachoto

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