Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Still Sewing After All These Years: From Hawatha to History of Beasts

My colleague at Northwestern recently sent me this photo (above). It was taken around 1986 or 1987 soon after I arrived at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. The other day, as I was sewing the History of Beasts book, I felt frozen in time, thinking how some things never change.

But change they have. One of the most rewarding aspects of being in the conservation field for such a long time is the enjoyment of retrospection and looking at all the changes that have happened over the past years. All the talented people I have worked with at the beginning of their careers are now the ones I go to for help, information and inspiration. The generous people I have studied with are now part of a professional network that I can easily access for problem solving as well as sharing techniques and practices. These people have now become a reliable resource of colleagues and close friends.

From this vast community, there are always new things to learn, new perspectives on treatment options and of course new people to meet. I get to work with curators, book artists, students and coworkers all who all contribute to an enriching growing and learning dynamic. What more could one ask for?

In June, I was in Philadelphia and was treated to three wonderful tours of Conservation Labs. The Conservation Center for Historical Art and Artifacts, The American Philosophical Society, and The Library Company of Philadelphia where Jennifer Rosner, Head of Conservation, showed me some beautiful veneer bindings in their collection that she is doing some research on.

So change or no change, I feel fortunate to be part of a professional field where people are consistently generous and change is for the good.

Written by Deborah Howe

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