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CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation

The CAA/American Institute for Conservation 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. Between 1991 and 2015, the award was known as the “CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation.”

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). If conducting historical research, please note that the CAA/AIC Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation was known as the “CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation” from 1991–2015.

2016 Debra Hess Norris, Department of Art Conservation, University of Delaware
Jury: Ellen Pearlstein, University of California, Los Angeles, chair; Brian Considine, J. Paul Getty Museum; and Glenn Wharton, New York University

2015 E. Melanie Gifford, National Gallery of Art
Jury: Joyce Hill Stoner, Winterthur/University of Delaware, chair; Brian Considine, J. Paul Getty Museum; and Ellen Pearlstein, University of California, Los Angeles

2014 Glenn Wharton, Museum of Modern Art and Museum Studies Program, New York University
Jury: Joyce Hill Stoner, Winterthur/University of Delaware, chair; Brian Considine, J. Paul Getty Museum; and Ellen Pearlstein, University of California, Los Angeles

2013 Lance Meyer and Gay Myers, Lyman Allyn Art Museum
Jury: Nicholas Dorman, Seattle Museum of Art, chair; Joyce Hill Stoner, Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library and the University of Delaware; and Rebecca Rushfield, independent conservator

2012 Francesca G. Bewer, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums
Jury: Michele Marincola, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, chair; Nicholas Dorman, Seattle Museum of Art; and Rebecca Rushfield, independent conservator

2011 Joyce Hill Stoner, Art Conservation Department, University of Delaware
Jury: Michele Marincola, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, chair; Nicholas Dorman, Seattle Museum of Art; and Rebecca Rushfield, independent conservator

2010 David Bomford, J. Paul Getty Museum
Jury: Jonathan P. Binstock, Citi Private Bank Art Advisory Service, chair; Michele Marincola, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; and Wynne Phelan, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

2009 Carol Stringari, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Chris McGlinchey, Museum of Modern Art
Jury: Harry Cooper, National Gallery of Art, chair; Jonathan Binstock, Corcoran Gallery of Art; and Wynne Phelan, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

2008 Elizabeth S. Bolman, Tyler School of Art, Temple University
Jury: Harry Cooper, National Gallery of Art, chair; Jonathan Binstock, Corcoran Gallery of Art; Wynne Phelan, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Rebecca Rushfield, independent conservator

2007 Lawrence Becker, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Christine Kondoleon, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Jury: Jay Krueger, National Gallery of Art, chair; Lisa Schrenk, Norwich University; Rebecca Rushfield, independent conservator; Harry Cooper, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

2006 Don Kalec, Historic Preservation Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and John Thorpe, John Thorpe and Associates
Jury: Jay Krueger, National Gallery of Art, chair; Andrea Kirsh, University of Oregon; Rustin Levenson; Lisa Schrenk, Norwich University; Rebecca Rushfield

2005 Paolo Cherchi Usai, National Screen and Sound Archive in Australia
Committee: Elizabeth Darrow, independent scholar; chair; Andrea Kirsh, independent curator and scholar; Jay Krueger, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Lisa Schrenk, Norwich University; Rustin Levenson, Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates

2004 Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, Harvard University Museums, and Whitney Museum of American Art
Committee: Elizabeth Darrow, independent scholar; chair; James Coddington, Museum of Modern Art; Andrea Kirsh, independent curator and scholar; and Rustin Levenson, Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates

2003 Ernst van de Wetering, University of Amsterdam
Committee: Joyce Hill Stoner, University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, chair; Jim Coddington, Museum of Modern Art; Elizabeth Darrow, University of Washington; and Joe Fronek, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

2002 Harry Cooper and Ron Spronk, Harvard University Art Museums
Committee: Joyce Hill Stoner, Winterthur Museum, chair; Frank Zuccari, Art Institute of Chicago; James Coddington, Museum of Modern Art; and Joe Fronek, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

2001 Andrea Kirsh, independent scholar and curator, and Rustin S. Levenson, independent paintings conservator
Committee: Joe Fronek, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Barbara Mangum, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Joyce Hill Stoner, Winterthur Museum and University of Delaware; and Frank Zuccari, Art Institute of Chicago

2000 Christa C. Mayer Thurman, Art Institute of Chicago
Committee: Margaret Holben Ellis, Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, chair; Barbara Magnum, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Alan Wallach, College of William and Mary; and Frank Zuccari, Art Institute of Chicago

1998 W. Thomas Chase, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
Committee: Alan Wallach, College of William and Mary, chair; Albert P. Albano, Intermuseum Conservation Association; Marjorie B. Cohn, Fogg Art Museum; and Margaret Holben Ellis, Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

1997 Henry W. Lie, Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard University
Committee: Alan Wallach, College of William and Mary, chair; Elizabeth Batchelor, Dayton Art Institute; Marjorie Cohn, Harvard Art Museums; and Jonathan Thornton, State University of New York, Buffalo

1996 Marjorie B. Cohn, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Committee: Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., chair; James Coddington; E. Melanie Gifford; Debbie Hess Norris; Johathon Thornton, State University of New York, Buffalo

1995 Molly Ann Fairies, Indiana University
Committee: Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., National Gallery of Art, chair; James Coddington, Museum of Modern Art; and E. Melanie Gifford, National Gallery of Art, for CAA; Inge-Lise Eckmann, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Debbie Hess Norris, University of Delaware for NIC

1994 Maryan Ainsworth, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Committee: Marcia Hall, Temple University, chair; E. Melanie Gifford, National Gallery of Art; and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., National Gallery of Art, for CAA; Joyce Hill-Stoner, University of Delaware; and Barbara Heller, Detroit Institute of Arts, for NIC

1993 Arthur Wheelock, National Gallery of Art
Committee: Marcia Hall, Temple University, and Gridley McKim-Smith, Bryn Mawr College, for CAA; Joyce Hill-Stoner, University of Delaware, and Barbara Heller, Detroit Institute of Arts, for NIC

1992 Robert L. Feller, Research Center on Materials of the Artist and Conservator, Mellon Institute
Committee: Maryan Ainsworth, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Gridley McKim-Smith, Bryn Mawr College for CAA; Barbara Heller, Detroit Institute of Arts, and Ross Merrill, National Gallery of Art for NIC

1991 Gridley McKim-Smith, Greta Andersen-Bergdoll, Richard Newman, and Andrew Davidhazy
Committee: Maryan Ainsworth, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Marcia Hall, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, for CAA; Ross Merrill, National Gallery of Art, and Joyce Hill Stoner, University of Delaware, for NIC