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Lise Steyn from South Africa

Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage

Educational Background

I graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria

Why this Master?

The MA in Conservation and Restoration is a very specific programme and is not offered by many universities. There are some possibilities to study non-accredited programmes, but it was important for me to gain a Master’s degree and learn a scientific and academic approach to restoration, as opposed to more empirical or autodidactic training. This programme not only opens up many possibilities for scientific research in conservation, but also gives many insights into the ethical and academic aspects of conservation. The interdisciplinary approach of the course also encourages conservators to learn more about the methods and materials of other disciplines, which in turn further enriches the creativity and problem solving abilities of programme graduates. Other than the fact that the programme is extremely well planned with workshops and lectures by well-known and important contributors to the field of conservation, the University of Amsterdam shares its training atelier with conservators from the Rijksmuseum, as well as conservation scientists from the RCE (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed). This means that students are able to observe the Netherlands’ most distinguished conservation professionals from up-close.

About the programme and the University of Amsterdam

Both my MA programme and the UvA have definitely exceeded my expectations. That said, there were times when I experienced some difficulties trying to arrange things. However, the university staff were always very helpful and accommodating, making sure that in the end everything got done on time. With regards to the class stucture and teaching methods of the professors, I am very impressed. Lecturers were well prepared and their knowledge was up to date. Also, one could see that the course lectures had been updated recently and weren’t just the same as in previous years. Lecturers are always very accommodating and willing to help you in cases where you would like to learn more than the time frame of the course allows for. The groups at the UvA are much smaller than in my previous programme, which meant that there was more discussion about the material and opportunity to ask questions.

About Amsterdam and the Netherlands

I really like how well-organised things are, as well as the fact that people maintain a good balance between their professional and personal lives. And after three years in the Netherlands, I still love the fact that I can walk around at night by myself and not worry about my own safety, even in a city as big as Amsterdam. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to, or for that matter, grow tired of that feeling.

Career goals

I hope to further specialise in nineteenth century pigment degradation and conservation problems, possibly in the form of a PhD. I would like to have a career in which I can be active in the conservation and restoration of paintings, as well as one in which I can investigate and research conservation problems. I feel that my chosen programme has adequately equipped me for these objectives and I am excited about the opportunities available to me.

For prospective students

I would definitely recommend this programme, but with a warning: If you’re not going to give it a 100% and work overtime all of the time, this is not the programme for you! Everyone who finished it had to work around the clock to keep up, and if we hadn’t completely invested all of our energies into it, we wouldn’t have achieved success. Conservation has to be your passion, because it definitely isn’t a part-time course. It is also important to know that the course is completely in Dutch, so you have to have a very good command of the language before you start the programme. For South Africans, the Dutch have a little of the ubuntu feeling that we’re accustomed to, but it is also a great opportunity to explore one’s own capacity for independence. Learn two words:“Gezellig” and “leuk”. You can have full conversations by just repeating them in different orders and nodding!