Diversity of talks makes for a rewarding meeting

In today’s post, MRCG Emerging Professionals Scholarship winner Alexa Beller recounts her experience at the Cooperstown meeting, where she presented her treatment and research on a painting by Grandma Moses. Alexa is a graduate student in paintings conservation at Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and the Graduate Conservation Intern at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Gianfranco Pocobene Studio.

I am so grateful to have been able to participate in the Annual MRCG Meeting this year in beautiful Cooperstown, NY! In addition to a fun meeting and beautiful fall weather, it was great to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame post-Cubs victory!

I really enjoyed that I was able to listen to all of the wonderful talks and was not limited to going to talks in a specific discipline. This was great because it instigated cross-disciplinary discussions between conservators with different specialties. The laid-back and friendly atmosphere further encouraged these conversations. All of the attendees, in short, were very engaged with the talks and activities, which made for a lively meeting.

Additionally, the talks presented a wide variety in terms of practical treatment tips like the use of Butvar-98 as a consolidant, to ethical considerations with thorough documentation, and characterization of aniline dyes with ToF-SIMS. As a current graduate student quickly approaching graduation, I really appreciated hearing about the challenges conservators are facing and solutions that are being devised. It can become easy in graduate school to forget that out in the field you may not always have colleagues constantly present to bounce ideas off of, instant access to analytical equipment and other resources, or even just time. I sincerely value hearing about situations where conditions or results are not ideal and how we as conservators can work through them. Moreover, sharing stories or experiences like these is sometimes difficult, as conservators we thrive on ideals and perfection, but it’s so important to share so we can learn from each other. I think the speakers’ willingness and openness to candidly share their trials, triumphs, and journeys made this conference particularly poignant and meaningful to me.

I was so honored to have the chance to share my research and treatment of a painting by Grandma Moses and was grateful for the insights and feedback I received afterward. It’s so helpful to practice presenting research and even more beneficial to do so in a supportive and engaged atmosphere.

Our visit to Golden Paints made this experience all the more special. Mark Golden and his team were lovely hosts and it was fascinating to see the research and care that goes into the fabrication of many of the materials that I admit to have somewhat taken for granted.

I can’t thank MRCG enough for support through the Emerging Professionals Scholarship! This was an amazing experience as I finish up my graduate studies to see how conservators can organize regionally to exchange ideas, discuss activities and build relationships. Although I have been moving quite a bit for school and internships I will always consider the Midwest my home. I am proud and grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community. Thank you again!

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