Job posting: Assistant Paper Conservator, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA)


Auto req ID  40943BR
Business Title Assistant Paper Conservator
School/Unit Harvard Art Museums
Location USA – MA – Cambridge
Job Function Museum
Time Status Full-time
Schedule Full-time
Department Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies
Salary Grade 056
Union 00 – Non Union, Exempt or Temporary
Duties & Responsibilities Note: This is a two-year term position.
• Reports to the Head of Paper Lab, Straus Center for Conservation Collections.
• Performs condition reports, surveys, examinations, and treatments on works on paper for the Harvard Art Museums and University Loan. Collections of works on paper span a broad range of cultures and time periods from Medieval to contemporary.
• Prepares accompanying written and photographic documentation, estimates, correspondence, and condition reports for exhibitions, loans, and acquisitions.
• Performs preventive care for works on paper, including advising on, researching and constructing housing, handling, storage, and environmental needs. • Accompanies artworks as courier as needed.
• Assist with hinging works as needed.Administrative
• Participates in planning and preparing budgets for lab activities, exhibitions, and projects.
• Manages exhibition support and special projects related to conservation and preservation as needed.
• Collaborates with and maintains good working relations with conservation scientists, conservators, curators, and other museum staff.
• Participates in selection, supervision, and instruction of conservation fellow.
• Directs and instructs casual employees, contractors, or students as appropriate.
• Assists in the maintenance of the lab and photo studio, including supplies, records, and equipment.
• Practices and promotes the Guidelines for Practice and Code of Ethics as established by the AIC.
• Works in two-site model, most often at 32 Quincy Street.
• Works independently, as appropriate.
• May participate in teaching, including undergraduate and graduate courses on the materials and techniques, and the technical examination of art.
• Advises and trains museum staff in the best practices for the care, handling, display, storage, and packing and shipping of objects.
• Responsible for staying current with professional philosophies, procedures, and practices in the conservation field through membership in professional organizations, publications, and attendance at meetings, workshops, and seminars.
• As time permits, conducts technical research relevant to the collection as assigned and is encouraged to publish and present findings at national and international conferences.
• Works with and provides content for Communications, the Division of Academic and Public Programs, Curatorial, and Institutional Advancement, and other departments as needed.
• Presents public gallery talks and participates in programming as requested.
• Supports Collections Management’s operation of Art Study Centers and Curricular Galleries.
• Leads and participates in tours for various interest groups.
Basic Qualifications • MA, MS, or Certificate in Conservation from a university program.
• A minimum of 2 years of relevant museum or other experience with skilled examination and treatment of materials and objects from a broad range of cultures and time periods.
Additional Qualifications • Specialization in prints and/or experience making prints preferred.
• Demonstrated experience with project management of moderate and small-scale projects.
• Demonstrated experience with technical study of works of art on paper and familiarity with analytical techniques such as XRF, FT-IR, Raman spectroscopy, and GC-MS.
• Demonstrated experience with state-of-the-art imaging tools used for conservation documentation including: digital photography and beta radiography.
• Excellent computer skills, including image editing and management; high level of proficiency/expertise using Adobe PhotoShop and other software.
• Excellent communication, writing, interpersonal, project management, and leadership skills.
• Publications and presentations in professional forums.
• Proficiency with The Museum System (TMS).
• Ability to lift up to 50 lbs and work while standing, and on occasion in non-studio, on-site locations.
• Precise attention to detail and manual dexterity.
Pre-Employment Screening Criminal
Appointment End Date 01-Dec-2018
EEO Statement Harvard University is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other characteristic protected by law.

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44th Annual Meeting—Book & Paper Session, May 15, “The Challenge of Scale: Treatment of 160 Illuminated Manuscripts for Exhibition,” Debora D. Mayer and Alan Puglia

With a team of 25 conservators, technicians, and interns, the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University is responsible for 73 individual repositories. A large-scale preservation program is essential to care for the vast amount of material in their collections, and Debora Mayer began her talk by commenting on the shifting attitudes in conservation to large collections. As the title of her talk had been changed last minute and large-scale treatment of collections is often associated with terms such as “business plans” and “time management” in my mind, I was expecting to hear a talk about compromises, budgets, and efficient treatment alternatives. Talks about these subjects are often impressive in demonstrating how much work can get done in a limited time, but can sometimes be a little sombre as they often remind us how often conservators don’t have the time to do everything we want. Debora’s talk was therefore uplifting and inspiring in describing how her team avoided burnout by working together to complete large amounts of high quality work within a reasonable time frame.

Treatment for over 160 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts with varying issues concerning structure and media stability had to be carried out within a two-year timeframe in preparation for a loan to a multi-venue exhibition. Since visual identification of unstable media using a microscope was insufficient (media that appeared unstable could actually be stable and vice versa), the team at the Weissman Preservation Center concluded that testing had to be done individually. Within the timeframe, it was not feasible to carry out an extensive study of all objects or to consolidate every illuminated leaf; only the ten leaves on either side of the display opening and the first leaf, often handled, would be tested and treatment carried out if necessary. Even so, this meant a staggering 57,000 cm2 of illuminations requiring consolidation. Based on previous treatments, it would take a conservator two to three minutes consolidating every cm2, but Debora pointed out that it was also important to remember the extra time required for handling or treating large items, housing needs, packing, documentation, etc. during time estimates for treatments. A 5,000-hour time estimate was drawn up, with 2,800 hours expected for consolidation. This was equivalent to three conservators working full time on the project for two years. I shuddered trying to imagine being one of three conservators tasked with the responsibility of this enormous project.

To reduce the work-fatigue that three conservators working on the project full time would inevitably experience, ten conservators worked halftime on the project over the two years, using excel spreadsheets to plan and keep track of workflow. With the amount of people working on the project, it was important to maintain uniformity in treatment procedures and judgment. All conservators followed the same protocols (e.g. using the same magnification or tools) to give the appearance that a single person treated the collection. For quality control, one conservator carried out treatment while another assessed to ensure the media was stable and that there was no visual change. Debora explained how the quality of treatment increased when multiple conservators could agree with a procedure and work together to set standards.

I really admired Debora’s emphasis on teamwork and communication—being open minded, ready for sharing observations and extensive discussions, and letting go of egos. Her talk was encouraging, showing that it is possible to get such a large amount of work done within a short timeframe while maintaining positivity and enthusiasm.