UCLA conservation program receives $1 million from two donors to meet Mellon Foundation’s endowment challenge

The UCLA/Getty Interdepartmental Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation has received two gifts of $500,000, successfully completing a $1 million match challenge presented by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2011.

A gift from the Kahn Foundation, administered by attorney-trustee James Keir, will support the Kahn Graduate Fellows in the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, while alumnus Jeffrey Cunard’s donation established the Lore and Gerald Cunard Chair in the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program (pending approval by the UC Office of the President).

Housed in the Cotsen Institute for Archaeology, the UCLA/Getty program trains students in cutting-edge conservation techniques to preserve priceless, fragile artifacts of archaeological, historical and artistic value. It is the only graduate-level academic conservation program on the west coast, and the only program in the country with a strong focus on archaeological and ethnographic materials.

“We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of the Mellon Foundation, Jeffrey Cunard and the Kahn Foundation,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh said. “Their comprehensive support will enable the program to expand and continue to draw the very best graduate students to UCLA.”

The UCLA/Getty program is the youngest among a national consortium of four graduate programs in art conservation to receive challenge grants from Mellon.

Program Chair Ioanna Kakoulli, a faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said, “Thanks to this infusion of endowed funds, we are now in a stronger position to grow the much-needed pipeline of conservation leaders with the specialist knowledge and skills to preserve artifacts and materials.”

Kakoulli noted that conservation is now considered a full-fledged scientific discipline, connecting the humanities and social sciences with the physical sciences and engineering. During their first two years, students work in state-of-the-art labs at the Getty Villa in Malibu, gaining hands-on experience with objects on loan from the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Autry National Center, the University of Southern California and Native American assemblages. As well as technical skills, students gain an understanding of the meaning certain materials may hold for indigenous populations. The third and final year is spent interning at top-tier museums and archaeological/historical sites such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia; Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and Bhutan; archaeological sites in Greece, Italy and Turkey; and Native American sites in California. Graduates of the program have accepted permanent positions at prestigious institutions around the country and abroad.

Alessandro Duranti, Dean of Social Sciences in the UCLA College, said, “The UCLA/Getty Program is an impressive collaboration—across disciplines, institutions, and cultures—that is helping to keep our rich world history alive while elevating the quality of research and teaching for all involved.”

David Schaberg, Dean of Humanities, said, “As one of the world’s great research universities, UCLA is committed to doing our part to preserve the legacy of humanity’s rich cultural heritage. The Mellon Foundation and these two generous donors have furthered our mission considerably.”


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. The Mellon Foundation is an important benefactor to UCLA, supporting a wide array of university initiatives.