Art Conservation In Cultural Institutions In Puerto Rico And The Virgin Islands: Damage Prevention From Natural Disasters

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University of Delaware
This undergraduate thesis serves as the final requirement to complete a Bachelor’s in Art Conservation and Art History at the University of Delaware. The research done both through literature review and through a short survey will serve as a resource for rising conservation professionals in the area of colonial Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This research strives to shed a clear understanding of the art conservation practice in cultural institutions of not only Puerto Rico--but the Virgin Islands as well; in hopes to cover a good portion of the Caribbean. The absence of literature on the preservation of cultural heritage in the Caribbean has affected the understanding and knowledge of how conservation is approached and practiced in a colonial entity that does not count with its own funding and in a geographical location that is affected by numerous annual natural disasters. Finally, this research may be one of the starting points in the development of a code of ethics for the practice of conservation and preservation of culture in the area of the Caribbean. Cultural significance within the field of conservation is getting more recognition with the understanding that there are different cultures all over the world. Treatment and preservation of cultural heritage belonging to different cultures will be approached differently depending on the country in which the practice is employed. The Mainland United States has resources and organizations that support and empower professionals, institutions, and all those involved in preserving cultural heritage.1 The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the Oficina Estatal de Conservación Histórica provide resources on the response in case of an emergency as well as reports of the recent damages to cultural institutions by natural disasters. The research begins with a brief summary of the nature of art conservation and how it is employed in the mainland United States. The topic then shifts to the history of Art Conservation in Puerto Rico and how the history of the study of material culture could be affected by Puerto Rico’s economic and political status as a colony as well as other places that have the status of a colony of the United States. To understand how institutions are able to run and maintain their collections, this research outlines the types of funding that are offered to the institutions that are common in the United States. To align with the topic which distinguishes all of the Caribbean from other regions in the world, this research also touches on the geographical location of the region and how it is affected by numerous disasters. Finally, this research concludes with the results of a survey that was distributed among all current active institutions of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico, Damage prevention, Art conservation, Material culture, Cultural heritage