Call for Papers: MRCG symposium 2019

Summer is almost over, Fall is approaching fast and with it, the MRCG Annual Symposium!

We are currently accepting proposals for presentations. We are encouraging you to share your experience with your colleagues and friends. We welcome topics from all specialties and on any aspect of your work. You may speak about this awesome treatment you have been doing, an interesting research project or this ethics concept you’ve been thinking about!

Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes. Additional time will be reserved for questions.

Please send a brief abstract (maximum 300 words) including the title of your talk, your name and contact information, and title to by September 15, 2019.

Additional conference details will be published soon on the MRCG website here.

We are also currently accepting applications for our Emerging Professionals Scholarship. Applications must be submitted by September 10, 2019. For more information, click here.

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Job posting: Paper Care Specialist at the Detroit Institute of Art

The Detroit Institute of Arts has an open position for a Paper Care Specialist, reporting to the Conservation Department, and working closely with the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Departments.

The position is primarily concerned with hinging, matting and framing works on paper, exhibition preparation, and managing the PDP art storage areas.

The salary range is $45,000 to $55,000. Applications should be made online at The posting will remain open until the position is filled.

For more information, please click here to get the full job post.

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Take the MRCG Disaster Preparedness Survey!

Are you prepared to respond to disasters at your institution or practice? If not, what resources and support do you need that you don’t already have? How would you like the Midwest Regional Conservation Guild to help you become prepared?

Please take our brief, anonymous survey, below. Your feedback will help MRCG create relevant, useful programming and resources for its members. Thanks for your participation! (Special thanks to the 19 people who have already completed it!)

For information on MRCG’s recent disaster preparedness symposium session and possibilities for future initiatives, you can read the article “Disaster Preparedness and MRCG,” by Katherine Langdon (Deputy Vice President), in the recently distributed Spring 2019 MRCG Newsletter. (If you didn’t receive this, please renew your membership and request your copy today!)



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Watt Restoration — a Virtual Tour

Today’s post is by 2018 MRCG Emerging Professionals Scholarship winner Elizabeth Robson, a conservation student at the SUNY Buffalo State Garman Art Conservation Department. She is currently a third-year intern at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL. Here Elizabeth shares her experience touring Ellen Watt’s painting conservation studio in Saint Louis, MO, as part of the 2018 MRCG Annual Symposium in Saint Louis, MO.

One of the activities generously offered to attendees of the MRCG Annual Meeting was a tour of the private practice studio of Paintings Conservator Ellen Watt. She is the owner of Watt Restoration, located in the Central West End district of St. Louis, her hometown. Ms. Watt graciously offered three emerging conservators both a ride through the snow and a personal tour of her lab on the first day of the symposium. The lab is located in the charming Pierce Arrow Building, which is also occupied by various other artists and creatives. The building itself was once part of an automobile factory and has been updated with attractive finishes and glass-front studios.


Ellen’s studio consists of a well-lit, large main space and a back room for UV examination and solvent storage. Her display of personalized posters, showing examples of paintings before and after treatment, welcomed us into the space. There were a variety of paint samples and books displayed throughout the room, which gave it an academic and professional vibe.


Ellen then showed us the treatments she is currently working on, including an oil on canvas portrait of a young girl by Mary Louise Fairchild (American, 1858-1946). It exhibits blistering and flaking characteristic of fire damage, and may be hiding another painting behind it! There was also a small Venetian scene which she had removed from its uniquely-shaped stretcher, and two 20th-century paintings on board that need minor cleaning. We were intrigued to examine the surface variations in these paintings, and to see the tools and spaces Ellen was using to treat them.


During this visit, the emerging conservators in attendance were able to discuss treatment dilemmas and the realities of working in private practice with Ellen. She was very positive and encouraging in this aspect, and has found success in her practice without encountering much trouble from clients. We were all thrilled that Ellen was willing to share her experiences with us as we consider our future plans in the conservation field. Establishing contact with a person who has years of expertise and could help emerging professionals who may end up going into private practice is an invaluable resource. This opportunity to network in a small group at the MRCG conference was greatly appreciated. Many thanks to Ellen Watt for her kindness and hospitality! Please visit to contact her or learn more about her practice.


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Under My Nose: Tour of St. Louis Botanical Gardens’ Conservation Lab and Library

Today’s post is by 2018 MRCG Emerging Professionals Scholarship winner Greg Niemann, who is the Conservation Technician at the Missouri Historical Society.

Growing up about an hour north of St. Louis meant many long bus rides on class trips to many of the landmarks around the city. As a kid, you never truly appreciate all of your surroundings, all that makes up your world and everything that influences you. I can remember touring the Botanical Gardens, admiring all the flowers in full bloom as I walked by, or seeing the Climatron and being amazed at the grandeur of the structure and what it held inside. I never stopped to think of all that went into the preservation of flora that I so relished.

When I returned home from college, my friends and I would regularly attend the concerts the gardens would host every Wednesday during the summer. My drive to and from would take me past all these buildings, one of which was the Botanical Library, but I had never given them a second thought. Thankfully, through the kindness of MRCG to grant me a scholarship, I was able to attend this year’s symposium and see what I had been missing out on.

Upon entering the foyer of the building, there were several beautifully carved pillars made from the trunks of various trees. Our building guide was Doug Holland, Library Director at the Botanical Gardens, who discussed the anti-seismic features that were incorporated due to the concern posed by the proximity of the New Madrid Fault. We were then led upstairs to the library and conservation lab. Susie Cobbledick, book conservator at the Botanical Gardens, talked about the challenges in maintaining historical books not just for exhibition but for use. We were shown some of the current projects she is working on, including the largest book in their collection, weighing approximately 40 pounds, which contained beautiful color images of flora.

We were then next led to the Rare Books section where several examples of the collection were on display for us in their reading room. Books ranged from elaborate and ornate, such as a floral illustrative book for Madame Bonaparte, to more humble, mass produced books of the Industrial Revolution era. Susie also showed us some of the oldest books they have, dating as far back as the late 1400’s.

For our final stop on the tour, we were shown a small fraction of the collection of botanical samples they have. Upon entering, I was overcome with the intense smell of what I could best describe as tea. Their collection spans the entire globe and is considered to be one of the largest such collections the US. Susie discussed the fact that many other collections have become ‘orphaned’ due to a cut in their funding and were absorbed by the institution, a problem that they themselves are dealing with since one of their biggest sponsors, Monsanto, was sold to Bayer.

I only know now of the dedication and effort in the preservation of not only our gardens, but of the knowledge of flora from around the world. I wish that I would’ve known sooner so I could’ve already been exploring the vast catalog of knowledge that have been so close to home. It’s time to make up for some lost time.



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