I worked on site carrying out conservation treatments and in the office preparing plans for conservation treatments in the form of photo-documentation and written proposals to clients. I worked on some ten jobsites featuring a variety of sculptural and architectural works.
During my internship, I used my studies from nearly every first-year HSPV course. I used photography and software skills from Documentation II and Digital Media to document site work for ongoing projects, to inform conservation decisions at new sites, and to reflect on and assess past work. In particular, I used the Adobe suite and AutoCAD extensively. Conservation Science gave me the vocabulary and provided case studies appropriate for understanding my field work this summer-- cleaning stone and wood with various products at various settings, material identification, selecting adhesives or patching materials, and so on. I also returned to geology and chemistry lecture notes with a new understanding gained from my onsite perspective. To give my field-work further context, I referred to the prompt for an assignment from Finishes Seminar to research the history of use of a conservation product. Preservation Theory offered structure to the question of why and for whom my work this summer was worthwhile. In addition, while business and material considerations drive decision making in the office, the company frequently tried to steer clients toward preservation-minded options, as informed by preservation philosophy.
One of my main practical takeaways from this summer was the importance of selecting and understanding construction products—finishes, adhesives, cleaners, protective coatings, patching products, etc.— their effect on different materials, how they have been used historically, and how the conservator intends to use them. I started keeping a list of all the products I had used and how I used them about halfway through the summer for future reference.
Several Penn graduates are employees (and owner) at Materials Conservation, and many former Materials Conservation employees have moved on to succeed in other areas of the industry. But I have to say I was most intrigued by their dependence on craftspeople for their knowledge and the practical success of their business. Ben Quinn-Kerins, for instance, an MC employee, is a very talented carpenter, clay sculptor, locksmith… you name it. At least weekly, I witnessed senior conservators in the company go to Ben for advice about techniques or tools or products. Anthony Ranalli, another employee, is an unbelievable realist painter and art historian—the company values his opinion and steady hand in similar ways. So, in addition to performing field work, the deep bench of craftspeople at MC are critical to developing sound conservation treatments. Witnessing this coordination was a valuable insight for building my network beyond capital “C” conservators.