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Training programme: Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland

Programme and institute
Master in Conservation-Restoration, Specialisation in Modern Materials and Media, Hochschule der Künste Bern HKB (Bern University of the Arts, BUA).
The postgraduate program for the degree of Master of Arts (MA) in Conservation-Restoration of Modern Materials and Media is dedicated to the education of future conservator-restorers specialising in the field of modern materials and media in modern and contemporary art.
Students focus on the preservation of e.g. modern and contemporary sculptures, design objects and installation art. They learn to develop conservation-restoration strategies for modern materials, audio-visual media as well as for electronic, kinetic and digital works of art. Studies at the Master’s level include specialised block-courses as well as applied conservation-restoration projects.
Block-courses focusing on modern materials impart knowledge on the composition and properties of different materials in modern and contemporary art (e.g. synthetic and semi-synthetic polymers, foodstuff). Students gain theoretical and practical experience with historic and current manufacturing and processing technologies and get in touch with artists' working techniques. Furthermore, they are trained in material identification and learn to systematically analyse degradation phenomena and their origins. This training comprises the hands-on application of analytical techniques (for example infrared microspectroscopy, thermal analysis or photo-elastic analysis) as part of failure analysis and the overall development of adequate conservation-restoration strategies. Students acquire knowledge and skills to develop and simulate new conservation-restoration treatments and learn how to use different scientific tools for their objective evaluation. Block-course topics dealing with modern materials include:
  • Composition and Properties of Polymers in Contemporary Art I
  • Composition and Properties of Polymers in Contemporary Art II
  • Industrial Processing Technologies for Polymers in Contemporary Art
  • Artists’ Processing Technologies for Polymers in Contemporary Art
  • Failure Analysis of Polymers in Contemporary Art I
  • Failure Analysis of Polymers in Contemporary Art II
  • Degradation of Polymers in Contemporary Art
  • Conservation and Restoration of Polymers in Contemporary Art I
  • Conservation and Restoration of Polymers in Contemporary Art II
  • Conservation and Restoration of Kinetic Art
Each of these courses corresponds to 75 student working hours (equivalent to 2.5 ECTS).
Block-courses focussing on modern media teach students how to identify damages on data carriers, troubleshoot faulty signals and installation hardware and to develop appropriate solutions. Handling of “obsolete” hardware, e.g. for re-installation purposes, or adequate handling and cleaning procedures for magnetic tapes are part of the practical training. A large collection of historic media equipment enables students to gain experience with handling operations and to familiarise with the partially “obsolete” technologies behind. Scopes, waveform monitors and spectrum analysers are used to analyse and to document audiovisual signals and to evaluate signal integrity. Students learn how to transfer different kinds of audio and video carriers to digital media. Other projects focus on the development of methods for the preservation of computer- or web- based artworks as well as the documentation and virtualisation of digital environments.
Block-courses topics dealing with modern media include:
  • Connectors, Cables and Signals in Audiovisual Environments
  • Copying and Presenting Audio- and Video Artworks
  • Introduction to Electronics in Artworks
  • Electronics in Audiovisual Devices and Control Engineering
  • Function and Preservation of Audiovisual Equipment
  • Multi-Media Re-Installation
  • Record, Tape and Disc
  • Restoration of Magnetic Tape
  • Conservation and Restoration of Moving Images
  • Art History of the Moving Image
Each of these courses corresponds to 75 student working hours (equivalent to 2.5 ECTS).
Master students are allowed to focus on the aspect of “modern materials” or “modern media” during their postgraduate specialisation. The specific block-courses are supplemented by a choice of additional courses covering other aspects such as humanities (e.g. material semantics), natural sciences (e.g. complementary analytical techniques) or other specialisations (e.g. courses dedicated to the conservation of paintings, wood, textiles, metals, paper or photography).
Course work covers 50 per cent of the time; the other 50 per cent comprise applied work on conservation-restoration projects. This includes specialised workshop practice on art objects or installations made of modern materials (such as plastics, foodstuffs), audio-visual media as well as on electric, electronic, digital and kinetic works of art. All stages of the conservation and restoration practice will be illuminated: from the examination and documentation of art objects to the conception and realisation of adequate conservation-restoration treatments. During these projects students are given the possibility to develop and reflect their own conservation-restoration strategies. They are encouraged to combine practical, technological and material-analytical skills with conservation-ethical and humanistic reflections. Students get in touch with different techniques for documentation, including 3-D documentation, documentation of light, of electric and electronic components and of sound and movement. This applied part of the curriculum also offers the possibility to work on conceptual installation art and to reflect the boundaries between conservation, restoration, reconstruction and replacement of materials and components. Within this context students are involved in the preparation and realisation of living artists' interviews.
The last stage of the program forms the writing of a Master thesis (30 ECTS). The Master thesis is
a piece of written research to demonstrate the achievements of each individual student regarding
knowledge, experience and skills to develop innovative conservation and restoration practices
within this field of specialisation.
Postgraduates with such a degree are employable e.g. for museums of modern and contemporary art and design and they take responsibility for the preservation of modern materials and media in archives and other collections. The program enables students to develop the skills needed to participate in specialised research projects. Postgraduate research opportunities are also offered through the Bern University of the Arts
This postgraduate program is offered since 2007. It is a further-development of a four-year diploma curriculum which included a two-year specialisation in modern materials and media conservation, established in Bern 1997.
Entry requirements
Application pre-requisite is a Degree of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Conservation (180 ECTS). A minimum of 40 ECTS from courses on modern materials or media conservation are prerequisite. Students must have gained a theoretical and practical background in modern materials or media conservation prior to entering this Master’s programme. The pre-requisites can be acquired at the Bern University of the Arts (BUA) within the Bachelor curriculum in conservation (3 years, 180 ECTS) as offered since 2005.
For further information about this Bachelor's degree programme see:​
This Bachelor curriculum allows the pre-specialisation in modern material and media conservation and includes lectures (at least 20 ECTS) and specialised workshop practice (at least 20 ECTS) dedicated to this particular field. A proof of records in courses (at least 40 ECTS) regarded as equivalent by BUA is requested for bachelors from other universities.
Students can apply twice yearly. Deadlines are 1st of March or 1st of September. The following documents must be submitted:
- application form (available online)
- curriculum vitae
- certificate of the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Conservation
- transcript of records of previous studies
- documentation of courses and applied conservation projects relevant to the field of modern materials or media conservation
Candidates are invited to an assessment (on-site) for consideration of the applicant's experience and expectation.
The full-time workload corresponds to 120 ECTS within two years, where one semester (30 ECTS) is equivalent to a student workload of 900 student working hours.
In total, 1350 working hours (45 ECTS) are dedicated to block-courses (30 ECTS specific to modern materials and media conservation, 15 ECTS to other topics).
Specialised workshop practice in the conservation-restoration studio encompasses the same workload (45 ECTS). Conservation-restoration projects at postgraduate level are normally done at the BUA’s internal workshops and laboratories. Master students may also apply for equivalent off-campus conservation-restoration projects while they are enrolled. On campus lectures are supplemented by a web-based blended learning and teaching platform. The Master thesis (30 ECTS) is the last requirement for the fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts in Conservation-Restoration of Modern Materials and Media.
The entire program complies with the ECCO/ENCoRE standards and qualifies for independent practice as conservator-restorer in the field of modern materials and media in modern and contemporary art.
Faculty staff
Main teaching staff: Anna Comiotto, Marc Egger and Johannes Gfeller.
Teaching language is German. Students are allowed to express themselves in French and English.
Prof. Stefan Wuelfert, PhD (head of Master studies)
(1) Responsible for the Modern Materials Curriculum
(2) Responsible for the Modern Media Curriculum