The story of how this all came to be began with the ARLIS-OV conference in Cleveland early in November 2012. Among a handful of younger people there, I was, perhaps, the only one there with any experience whatsoever in conservation. This caught the attention of one of the attendees — the director of the Ingalls Library at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Betsy Lantz. Would I be interested in an internship at the Museum?
Well of course! Who wouldn’t be? Several months later, I began my internship at the CMA, driving some 150 miles each way one day a week from May-August.
I did not know what to expect, but I was both thankful and surprised at what I found. The people were so incredibly wonderful, and much to my surprise, one of them grew up in Dilworthtown of all places — and not only that, her father still lived in Glen Mills! And even stranger, friends knew both him and his late wife! Such a small world.
I began by analyzing whether the Ingalls’ collection had titles identified through collections comparison via OCLC, and comparing what I knew of conservation reference sources to suggest further titles and avenues for exploration.
But the most valuable aspects were speaking with members of the conservation staff themselves. A library exists, as far as I am concerned, for the benefit of the people who use it, and in order to to actually serve them we must be willing to speak — and to listen. And for their part the staff had quite a bit to say about the library, though much of it was not related to collections development.
But what they did say was enlightening, and probably reflects the concerns of modern conservation and restoration. “More on modern and contemporary materials!” was a familiar cry, as was “more science!” But like any artist, their concerns primarily reflected their own niches of practice and training.
But such is the case with professional practice — not only finding your niche, but making it work for yourself and others. Indeed, I think it speaks volumes for any information professional as well. Find a niche, and thrive.
But where the niche is for a person such as myself, with feet in both the cultural heritage world and the information sciences, well, that remains to be seen!
And as one last interesting side note, you never know where talking to people may find you. Because of my time there, I’ve become the archivist/records manager of the American Institute for Conservation’s Textile Specialty Group! How about them apples?