When I was 9, my great-grandmother passed away at age 89. As her oldest granddaughter, I inherited her extensive collection of heirloom needlework. I was immediately captivated by who made the pieces, how each was made, how to care for it, and what they needed to last for generations to come. This set me on a life-long path of curiosity and learning about textile history and conservation.
I studied American textile history at Hampshire College, focusing on the non-dominant voice in material culture. In 2009, a client brought me a c. 1910 tied 4-patch quilt with a very fascinating mystery – a beautifully quilted back! There was a mystery second quilt under the 1910 top, and I uncovered a pre-Civil War quilt. I took the piece to show Suzanne Flynt at Memorial Hall in Deerfield, and she asked me to work on the textile collections there. Since 2010, I have been an on-call textile conservation specialist at Memorial Hall, working on all levels of care from attaching labels to complex restoration projects to designing and installing innovative mounts. Significant grant-funded work includes:
- “Children of Deerfield” (2015) restoration and conservation on a child’s suit from 1790.
- “Skilled Hands and High Ideals” (2013) involved with every aspect of mounting the exhibit, including work on all textile pieces, particularly the c. 1760 Lucy Lane linen bed-curtains, which involved 5 different shades of thread to secure the artifact for display.
Suzanne recommended me for the Collections Assistant position at the Hatfield Historical Museum, where I have worked since the summer of 2015 in a Community Preservation Act grant-funded position covering all parts of collections care, inventory, display, and curation. Besides my textile background, I have experience with identifying and improving systems of work to support greater knowledge of and access to the collections, with an eye to transparency for those that follow in decades to come. If we only think about our own time with the collection, we are being short-sighted. Documenting and clarifying institutional policy helps small local history institutions take whatever the next steps toward best practices might be for their museums. This is also why I take an active interest in current museum practices and collections care; there is always new research, new techniques, and something new to learn.
There is a great deal of behind-the-scenes work that goes into museum work, and finding ways to support myself and other people with the drive and interest to dig through the grime and spend hours doing data entry or moving boxes or chasing down speakers is an important part of how I do what I do. On behalf of organizations I am associated with, I have applied for and and secured grant funds from the MA State Historical Records Advisory Board, the Mass Cultural Council, and Mass Humanities. These have bought archival storage materials, shelving, research hours, and roof repairs. Grants fund exhibits, speaker events, and educational outreach to schools and communities.
Community engagement is important to me, on a personal level with my involvement serving on the board of the Historical Society of Greenfield, and through connections to people and regional institutions. I’ve been a presenter at History Camp Pioneer Valley, and a participant in History Camp Boston and the Mass Humanities state history conference for the past several years. Currently, I am one of two mentors in the American Association for State and Local History grant to the Pioneer Valley History Network to support small local history museums in achieving the next steps in the long-term care of their collections. Extending networks of connection between organizations is a vital part of my work. I am committed to preserving the past in order to share it with the present and prepare for the future. History is for everyone, and it starts now.