As of 2017, Bob has been a conservator in Oberlin for 35 years (since 1982).
While busy with projects management for the company and performing the oversight duties of a chief conservator, he still performs treatments, particularly involving industrial coatings on sculpture and mosaic conservation and their sometimes emergency relocations. His original principal field of study and work was the conservation of paint films (easel paintings, wall paintings and murals), and secondarily mosaics.
After high school and throughout his years in college Bob studied modern French literature (Céline, Beckett, Genet, Camus, Sartre) and philosophy (Sartre, Bachelard, Merleau-Ponty, Levi-Strauss, Derrida, Lacan, etc.; also Jung with a focus on the theory of synchronicity) and focused on structuralism and post-structuralism; he also read art philosophy and art psychology (especially Rudolf Arnheim and the theory of the Gestalt) and studied Christian theology, Catholic doctrine, and dogma (reading Adolf von Harnack).
This period included, as well, two years studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts culminating many previous years’ of serious work at painting throughout his youth, and coast-to-coast travels with his thumb. Subsequently he became a “picker,” employed by an antiques dealer, traveling throughout the eastern Pennsylvania countryside on his BMW R69S motorcycle, to locate “finds” in barns and garages for an antiques dealer. He eventually received a B.A. in art history and classical languages from the Pennsylvania State University.
During graduate school in art history (field: ancient Mediterranean art) and also classical languages (that’s Greek and Latin) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, Robert encountered art conservation in a course on museology and knew he had found his calling. Spending more time with the paintings conservator at the North Carolina Museum of Art than in class, he eventually stopped going to one Ionic dialect Greek class, failed the course, and was thus accordingly thrown out of graduate school, though he had completed all course requirements for the degree and was finishing his thesis identifying depictions of Roman sites in the Historiae Romanorum codex 151 (Hamburg).
He declined an invitation to return to UNC and instead pursued art conservation, first apprenticing in New York City with Margaret Watherston and with Alan Farancz. He received his Master of Science degree in Art Conservation in 1982 from the Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware Art Conservation Program with a specialty in the conservation of modern art and (ancient) mosaics. He served his third year graduate internship in the conservation department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
During his graduate program years, Bob spent two summer internships at the Intermuseum Laboratory of the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA), 1980 and 1981, restoring the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s 6th century AD Antioch Mosaic. This project was under the guidance of Prof. Larry Majewski of New York University as his graduate conservation program did not have a professor with expertise in that area. The mosaic was still bound in its concrete from the Princeton excavations begun in 1932, but had become extensively broken into pieces. During those two summers, he completed the concrete removal and assembly of the large mosaic onto a single panel and published the methodology. The mosaic has been on display at the Allen Memorial Art Museum since then. Bob has continued to pioneer mosaic conservation and their relocations to the present.
On graduation, Bob was invited back to Oberlin, hired to be Conservator of Paintings and Modern Art at the Intermuseum Laboratory (ICA). Bob became a leader of ICA’s museum collection surveys, specialized in the treatment of modern paintings, designed and constructed the ICA office’s first database when Macintosh computers became available and supported at Oberlin College, and from 1986 to 1989 worked as ICA’s acting head of paintings conservation. He left the Intermuseum Laboratory at the end of 1989 to establish with his wife Gina, a paper conservator, the private McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory, Inc. in a new, purpose-built building on their 50 acre farm on the outskirts of Oberlin.
The company was an immediate success. Now with eleven full-time staff, working from four purpose-built buildings, offering multiple conservation specialties, the company has become one of the largest providers of conservation services for wall paintings, architectural features, paintings, art on paper, sculpture, public art, monuments and historic fountains based on service revenue, facilities size and service variety in the United States. During 28 years of providing conservation services, the company has focused on museum and institutional fine arts collections; federal, state and local government collections; with an emphasis on the conservation of architectural features, painted outdoor sculpture, public art, monuments, metal artifacts, modern and historic fountains, while still maintaining its initial activities in paintings, murals and paper conservation. Of the company’s eleven employees, eight are conservators, each with their own distinct technical specialty, and two are conservation assistants.
Last book read (twice): Independent People (in translation from Icelandic) by Halldór Laxness.
Projects Manager and Conservator for Architectural Features, Wall Paintings, Mosaics, Sculpture Conservation Contracts
Manages and participates in treatments of all architectural features, wall paintings, murals mosaics, sculpture, fountains and monument conservation projects for McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, Inc. Manages all federal, state and local conservation contracts for McKay Lodge, Inc. and its various joint ventures.
Paint film studies, pigments identification and metallurgical studies. Performs all optical particle and cross-sectional microscopy for the company’s conservators.
Specialty: Conservator of Mosaics
Trained and experienced in the conservation of mosaics and especially in their removal for relocation. Has completed many large scale mosaic removals and installations in new locations. Graduate school research in ancient mosaic excavation and remounting.
Specialty: Conservation of Painted Outdoor Sculpture / Corrosion Control for Historic and Artistic Metal Objects
Industry-trained industrial coatings inspector and coatings failure analyst. Concentrating on failure analysis and new applications of modern industrial coatings (paints) for monumental steel and other metal sculpture and valuable historic artifacts.
Collection Condition Assessor for Over 34 years
Conducts collection condition assessments and advises on condition information management. Conducts Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) museum assessments for Heritage Preservation of the Smithsonian Institution. Substantial experience in conducting NEA, IMLS and other on-site assessments of museum preservation procedures and collection condition in paintings, sculpture, objects, industrial artifacts and art on paper since 1982.
Conservation Information Management
Developer of conservation information and small collection information databases in Microsoft Access/Visual Basic for Applications. Consultant on managing collection condition information.
Conservator of Modern Art
Specialized professional practice in the conservation of modern and contemporary art since 1982. This focus transcends the traditional media boundaries of paintings, sculpture, etc. and includes modern industrial materials.
2002 GSA Peer Professional
Appointed Member, GSA (General Services Administration) National Register of Peer Professionals – a Peer Review Professional in conservation participating in efforts to improve design quality in public art and architecture through the GSA Design Excellence Program.
1998 Alumni Achievement Award
School of Arts and Architecture
Pennsylvania State University
September 2001 – Present, Managing Member
Oberlin Conservation Associates, LLC
Human Resources for Art / Artifacts / Monuments / Fountains Preservation & Maintenance
11 West College Street, Oberlin, OH 44074
1990 – Present, President
McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory, Inc.
10915 Pyle-South Amherst Road
Oberlin, Ohio 44074
PAST EMPLOYMENT IN CONSERVATION
June 1988 – August 1989, Conservator of Paintings and Modern Art
Intermuseum Laboratory, Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA)
Oberlin, OH 44074
Nov. 1986 – June 1988, Acting Head of Paintings Conservation
Sept. 1983 – Nov. 1986, Conservator of Modern Art
Sept. 1982 – Sept. 1983, Paintings Conservator
1978 – 1979, Conservation Apprentice
Alan M. Farancz, Paintings Conservation Studio, Inc.
New York, N.Y
1977 – 1978, Conservation Studio Assistant
Margaret Watherston, Conservator, Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, N.Y.
GRADUATE INTERNSHIPS IN CONSERVATION
Sept. 1981 – Aug. 1982, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Training in conservation of modern art.
(Third-year internship to complete requirements of the University of Delaware Master of Science degree in Art Conservation)
Summer 1981, Intermuseum Laboratory
Intermuseum Conservation Association
Project leader: major treatment of the Allen Art Museum’s 6th cent. A.D. Antioch Mosaic
Summer 1980, Intermuseum Laboratory
Intermuseum Conservation Association
Treatment of the Allen Art Museum’s 6th cent. A.D. Antioch Mosaic
1979 – 1982, Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware Art Conservation Program
Master of Science in Art Conservation, 1982
1978 – 1979, Hunter College, New York, N.Y.
Organic and physical chemistry
1976 – 1978, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Candidate: Master of Arts in Art History in Ancient Art (degree not taken)
1973 – 1975, Pennsylvania State University
Bachelor of Arts in Art History;
Minor in Greek and Latin
1969 – 1971, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Painting, Drawing, Graphics, Sculpture