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CAPC Emerging Conservator Grant Awarded to Marika Kesler

Marika reports on her attendance at the 2019 North American Textile Conservation Conference (NATCC) in Ottawa.

I wish to express my sincere thanks for the financial assistance I received through CAPC’s Emerging Conservator Grant to attend the 2019 North American Textile Conservation Conference (NATCC) in September. As an emerging professional in textile conservation, attending this specialist conference was a unique opportunity to further my academic and practical knowledge while networking with my peers across North America. The theme of this year’s NATCC, “Lessons Learned – Textile Conservation – Then and Now,” was reflected in papers on community collaboration, revisiting past treatments, and historical reviews of practice.

This was my first year attending. It was the best-run conference I have been to, and I commend the organizers, venues, and the group as a whole for making it a fascinating and very genial event. The speakers were particularly frank and entertainingly open about the challenges they faced in their work--an openness that I felt invited and encouraged continued discussion. A running theme in the papers throughout the different sessions was the challenges of long-term projects as well as objects held in museum collections long enough to have accumulated multiple treatments. The historical review sessions provided a fascinating overview not only of conservation treatments, but also of encounters with preservation efforts that arguably predate conservation (especially textile conservation) as a profession.

The final session of the conference was especially interesting to me as an emerging professional. It covered a topic I feel is not discussed often enough: the practicalities and challenges of private practice. As I was in the midst of my first experience as an independent contractor, these presentations had a very direct and practical positive impact on my professional practice. The pragmatism described and exhibited by the two speakers, one on recently establishing a studio and another on three decades of practice, was enlightening and encouraging. The final speaker, Alison Lister, noted that the majority of recent graduates are now working freelance or in the private sector, and called for conservation programs to take that into account and build a work force that is skilled in both conservation and business practice.

Upon returning to Vancouver, where I was working on a contract with the Museum of Anthropology, I was inspired to share my experience of NATCC at my first Pacific Conservation Group meeting in Victoria on November 15th. This was my first time presenting at a professional forum, and I could not have taken that step without having had the opportunity to attend NATCC.

Receiving the CAPC Emerging Conservator Grant has had a ripple effect of furthering my career, encouraging local professional connections, and giving me experience in conservation upon my return to North America from training in the UK. I cannot be more grateful.

Marike Kesler