News from the Conservation Lab — Chairing a Conference … Remotely

By Suzanne Davis, Curator of Conservation

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of chairing the annual conference of the American Institute for Conservation. It’s an interesting job in which I get to work with a lot of amazing people, read about all the cool research my colleagues are doing, and — once a year — stand up on multiple different stages, introduce people, hear and see their great papers, and then moderate discussions with them. Every year I get nervous about this because our biggest sessions have around 1,000 people, and both our speakers and our audience members are super smart (and also very opinionated). But then, every year, it’s a great experience and I’m so glad I got to be part of it.

This year, however, there’s a new twist. I bet you can guess what it is! Yes: this year, for reasons of health and safety, we’re holding the conference online. Thankfully, there is a great team at AIC managing all the actual logistics, because I still have a paper copy of the newspaper delivered to my door each morning, I’ve never been on the book of faces, and I don’t tweet or ‘gram. So we’ll see how this goes. Fingers crossed! I’m cheering myself up by thinking about the ~100 hours of great content we’re going to have.

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The AIC Board members sitting virtually for our pre-conference board meeting. Screenshot by Kate Lee.

In our opening session this Thursday, we’ll have a talk by NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede, and then five presentations by AIC members on topics of importance to the direction of our discipline: how conservation is / should be presented in public outreach, collections care practices that can help us navigate change, considerations for the future of African collections, reworking science curriculum in conservation training, and methods for ensuring pluralistic, values-based decisions in conservation and collections-care. I’m looking forward to this and many other sessions, and will report back on how they go. Wish us luck!

 

 

News from the Conservation Lab — Reflections on Grant Writing from Home

By Caroline Roberts, Conservator

Greetings, Kelsey Conservation blog readers! I welcome you all to my home office/kitchen table, where I have spent the past several weeks writing an application for a federal grant.

Woman at computer looks at baby in high chair.
Carrie’s son Jamie offers constructive feedback while sampling graham crackers.

There is a method to my madness. If we are successful, we’ll receive funds that will support research at the Kelsey. But even if we are not successful, the ability to put together a grant and write a compelling narrative is a major skill for any researcher. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Once you’ve found the grant you want to apply for, read the solicitation/funding notice a few times. Pretend you are making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon from scratch, and follow the instructions carefully. Otherwise … catastrophe.
  2. Read successful project narratives from past grant cycles. This is especially important if this is your first time writing a narrative (also see step 3).
  3. The first narrative draft you write is not going to be your best. Do NOT plan to submit the first thing you write! Ask someone to read your proposal. Get their honest opinion. Things will become clearer (and more intelligible to reviewers!) as you write.
  4. Remember that the people reading your narrative aren’t you. They are probably in a different field than you and, unlike you, they are reading a lot of proposals in addition to yours. Make it easy for them.
  5. Don’t overlook your budget. Planning it out can help solidify your thinking around how your project is going to work.

I’ve got Suzanne to thank for a lot of these insights, and for helping me shape my ideas into a story someone might want to read.

The Kelsey Staff Carry On — From Home

In these days of quarantine, you may be asking yourself, How are museum professionals able to work from home? After all, we can’t take the objects home with us. Here’s how a few of the Kelsey staff are getting things done in the days of social distancing.


  • MalloryCommunity and Youth Educator Mallory Genauer is preparing for the Kelsey’s upcoming docent training, which may go virtual. She is researching techniques for digital learning and creating digital galleries that the new docents can use to learn their way around the museum without actually being in the galleries. All of this will also help with the digital outreach program that she is working on, some activities of which we are hoping to preview shortly on the Kelsey website.

 



Ceilidh

  • Administrative Specialist Lisa Rozek finds she is able to do almost everything she needs to from laptops at home, and is pleased to report that her new office assistant, pictured here reconciling accounts, is both enthusiastic and capable.

 

 


News from the Conservation Lab — Working Remotely and Conserving Ourselves

By Suzanne Davis, Curator of Conservation

Hello, blog readers. I hope you are happy, healthy, and staying safe. This past week felt like about six, huh? It did to me. Work has changed at the Kelsey, as it has at many workplaces around the world. A small example — I usually work here:

conservation_lab-web

And now I’m working here:

kitchen-desk-web

It’s a little bit different. Not least because my cat feels that humans in the home should equal very frequent snacks for cats. He’s like, “Look lady, we both know you’re sitting right by the treats cupboard. Would it kill you to serve more snacks? All you’re doing is sitting there like a lump. Look alive and give me more of those #$@%! fish crunchies already!”

Conservators’ main job is to preserve cultural heritage for the future, so it’s reasonable to wonder how I’m doing it from a small corner of my kitchen while trying to ignore Flash Kitty. Truthfully, I’m doing conservation-adjacent work, as are most of my colleagues around the country. Here’s a sample of things I’ll be doing over the next few weeks:

  • Recording guest lectures about conservation for colleagues’ classes
  • Taking professional development webinars and online courses
  • Writing up research into publishable journal articles
  • Preparing grant applications
  • Planning future projects
  • Catching up on all the professional reading and newly published research I usually only barely have time to skim

Other conservators I know are recording the oral histories of senior colleagues, writing up treatment and research protocols, and contributing to conservation-focused wiki entries.

It’s also kind of a stressful time right now. Many of us are either at high-risk of serious complications from COVID-19 or have loved ones who are. So please follow public health advice in order to conserve yourselves and those who are more vulnerable than you are. AND there are things you can do to preserve your mental health and reduce stress. Below are the activities I find most useful.

  • Exercising: walking outside, jumping rope, doing yoga or high-intensity body weight exercises at home.
  • Relaxing: UCLA’s mindfulness awareness research center has free guided meditations I like, here.
  • Connecting with friends and family: I’m not normally a big fan of talking on the phone, but I’m learning to like it now!
  • Making stuff with my (carefully washed) hands: conservators will be the first to tell you how satisfying it is to do hand work; we do it for our jobs and most of us love it and miss it if we’re away from it too long. Now might be a good time to take up a handicraft or invest time in one you’ve already got going. There are lots of online videos if you want to learn something new and supplies can be ordered, probably even from your local shops.

Wishing you good health,

Suzanne