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Conservation Laboratory

Director: George Wheeler

Columbia University’s Historic Preservation Program was the first to offer graduate education and training in architectural conservation in the United States. It maintains a leadership position in this field and currently offers a broad spectrum of courses delivered by a talented and experienced faculty led by Director of Conservation Dr. George Wheeler. The program prepares students for employment with building conservation and architecture firms and develops skills in documentation, field assessment, specification writing, conservation treatment, materials testing, analysis and identification, and project management.

The conservation laboratory was established in its current location on the 6th floor of Schermerhorn Extension in 1982. Today, the laboratory comprises approximately 1800 square feet and is used for lectures, demonstrations, and other typical activities that support course work, thesis, and independent research. In addition to the usual supplies and equipment such as a deionized water supply, glassware, chemical reagents, etc., a wide range of equipment is housed and used in the laboratory and offsite including: Philips X-ray Diffractometer, Nikon and Zeiss polarizing light and stereo binocular microscopes with an Infinity 2 digital cameras, X-Rite Spectrophotometer (colorimeter), INSTRON 4201 mechanical analyzer, multiple Onset T/RH dataloggers, and Accumet pH and conductivity meters. In addition, the laboratory houses some of the most complete and extensive historic collections of brick, sand, terra cotta, wood, and mudbrick, as well as a unique set of collections of stone samples dating back to the 19th century, and historic mortar and mosaic samples dating from Roman times to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. These collections and facilities are augmented by close associations with the Laboratory for Applied Building Science, the School of Engineering at Columbia University, the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, the Objects Conservation Department and the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Highbridge Materials Consulting. These associations provide additional equipment for teaching and research such as a wider array of mechanical testing equipment, scanning electron microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, portable and stationary x-ray fluorescence, and infrared thermography.