Conservator at the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation
I was born/grew up in: Montreal, QC, Canada
I now live in: Ottawa, ON, Canada
I completed my training/education at: . I went to Queens University in Kingston where I obtained a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Then I went to Cardiff University in Wales where I received a Bachelor of Science in Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology
Describe what you do at work.
A lot of what I do involves examining and working on artifacts in the Museum’s collection. I get artifacts out from the storage facility, photograph them and add all the requisite photos and notes to our databases (you can find some of our photos on the following website: www.techno-science.ca
I also prepare proposals if an artifact needs to be cleaned, fixed, assembled, made safer or have something added to it. Then I use the right materials to work on the item and get it ready for exhibitions if needed.
My other tasks involve looking for connections between artifacts that we (the conservators) are working on and other programs or events going on in the Museums. I help with the descriptions of artifacts that go on display and I help advise those that prepare Museum exhibitions to make sure the artifacts fit in the displays that are being built.
We sometimes organise conservation programs like heritage groups, heritage classes, history classes and conservation classes. I also help Museum curators with their programming. We also have some fun with our social media channels and contribute to the Corporation’s outreach.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
I think that without the conservators at the Museum we wouldn’t be able to display artifacts in the Museum exhibitions the way we do today. Instead, the exhibitions may have many replicas, badly damaged artifacts or items that would fall apart in the displays. Conservators work very hard to make sure that artifacts in the collection last as long as possible so that they can be enjoyed from one generation to the next. I think that if we didn’t do our jobs, the public would lose the history (or at least a part of the history) of science and technology in Canada.
One of the things that is unique in our collection is that we have a lot of hazardous materials. The people who made the artifacts originally used materials such as stone, glass, wood, metal and leather but also hazardous materials such as chemicals, fuels, medicinal compounds, explosives and radioactive materials. We often have to remove or isolate the hazardous materials so that the public can enjoy the artifacts safely.
What motivates you in your career?
What motivates me is all the unanswered questions that an artifact raises when it first comes across my desk. When you’re working with something that is 15 centimeters away from you for a long period of time, your mind starts to wonder and imagine what it was like to build, design and use this item. Solving these historical puzzles, discovering why and how the artifact is important is really what motivates me.
Working with artifacts up-close allows me to appreciate all the efforts that have gone into creating the item. This motivates me to preserve them to the best of my abilities in order to honour the legacy of the people who created them.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I studied engineering in university and worked as a student in a failure analysis and material analysis laboratory and really liked the type of work and problem-solving we were doing but the context wasn’t right for me. I always loved museums and I enjoyed learning about what goes on behind the scenes so I researched ‘museum jobs’ on Google where I found, in the job requirements, that you need a conservation degree. Then I remembered seeing the various conservation programs and got very excited about the courses I would be taking. As soon as I discovered this field of work, I knew that’s what I had to do.
I did a lot of internships in conservation. I worked with the Young Canada Works program and the Federal Students Work Experience Program (FSWEP). I then worked at three or four different museums as a volunteer intern.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy sailing, trivia, crafts, cooking, eating, exploring, reading, getting way to involved in some TV shows, and hanging out with friends. I like going to events and doing outdoor activities in Ottawa.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
If you want to know anything about how the world works, you have to become science literate. You have to know how to answer questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ and develop good judgement to know when these questions really matter.