How did you first discover conservation?
I was looking for something to do the summer after I graduated from high school and came across the Smithsonian's Behind-the-Scenes Volunteer Program. It sounded promising, so I made an appointment to meet with the volunteer coordinator. She asked me what I was interested in, and I told her I couldn't decide between art and science. After a moment's thought, she handed me a description of a placement at the Smithsonian Library Book Conservation Lab, and the rest is history!
What brings you to the Philadelphia area?
I'm here because my spouse (also a conservator) landed a fabulous job at the PMA. We'd been long-time Baltimore residents, but had always liked Philadelphia and felt that we were ready for a change. I work privately and teach at Winterthur, so it was a good move for me too.
Briefly describe either a dream conservation project or a real one that turned out to be awesome.
So many, it's hard to choose. I still think one of my favorites is when I worked pre-program for the National Park Service on the Washington Monument Restoration Project. We were documenting and treating the 193 commemorative stones lining the interior walls, but the outside of the Monument was also being worked on, and I got to go up to the very top and touch the tip! I realize that might be more of a nightmare than a dream for some people, but sturdy scaffolding made it feel very secure. More recently, I had the incredible experience of treating objects for the inaugural opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. A few highlights were Mohammed Ali's practice gloves (humbling), Shaquille O'Neal's sneaker (very large), the Tin Man's costume from the Wiz on Broadway (rusty!), and Parliament-Funkadelic's Mothership (complicated).
What do you do for fun when you're not conserving, preserving, archiving, etc.?
Reading, visiting gardens, pursuing the perfect cup of coffee, getting harassed by our two cats.
Do you have an unanswered question about living in the Philly region that we might be able to answer?
Yes, where to go for Indian food—or good restaurants generally speaking, especially vegetarian-friendly ones!