The department includes three full-time staff members:
I have been with the Museum since 1988 and Head Conservator since 2008. Like all of our object conservators, I work on a wide range of three dimensional artifacts but my areas of specialization are the issues relating to traveling artifacts (for loans or traveling exhibits) and archaeological field conservation; I also enjoy teaching and lecturing about conservation. In 2006, I published The Maya Vase Conservation Project, a book about conservation of a group of Maya vessels from the Museum's collections. I particularly enjoy working with our pre-program volunteers, curriculum interns, and post-graduate Fellows; the latter two groups are especially good at keeping us up to date on the latest conservation treatments and trends.
I received my conservation training from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London, England. Before coming to Penn I worked in Jordan, Hong Kong, and Canada and have worked as a field conservator in Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy, England, Honduras, and Guatemala. Field conservation is really my first love, since there is so much excitement inherent in working on freshly excavated material. Being at the Penn Museum has some of the same excitement because 'discoveries' occur every day in storage; with a collection of around a million artifacts there's always something new to see and admire. It's a great treat to work with the Curators and Keepers of the Collections and my other Museum colleagues. Every day there is something fascinating to see/learn/experience.
I have been a Conservator in the Penn Museum since 1998, when I arrived as an intern from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). This, however, was not my original career path. I had graduated many years prior from Moore College of Art with a B.A. in Illustration and went to work next door at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in the Exhibits Department. As this institution dates to the early 19th century, some of the objects in the collections understandably showed some wear and tear, and it quickly became my goal to search for ways to breathe new exhibit life into old specimens (and save them from a second death). Through this pursuit my colleagues and I became aware of the field of art conservation and I was impressed by its career possibilities. Unfortunately, financial constraints led me instead to work for advertising agencies, a trade show exhibit firm and various other concerns. But I missed museums. By the early '90s, I decided that it was now or never and went back to school for pre-conservation program classes at Rutgers, followed by volunteer and technician work in various conservation departments in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. From there it was on to WUDPAC and the Penn Museum.
That first year here at Penn Museum I had great experiences conserving a wonderfully wide variety of objects and materials. I hated the prospect of leaving after only one year, so I applied for and was granted a Kress fellowship for a second year. One project lead to another until it became clear that this is my professional home.
In early 2011, I joined the Conservation Department as the newest staff member. With several years working in various museums, regional centers and private collections both in the US and abroad, I can now channel my energy into a single collection. As an objects conservator, I have always loved the variety of materials and cultures that my training allows me to work with. The depth and breadth of the Penn Museum collection ensures that I will still be able to maintain this level of diversity in my work even though I am working in one place. In addition to taking care of as many objects as I can, I am also Co-Founder and Program Chair of the Philadelphia Area Conservation Association (PACA), a new professional network for conservation and preservation professionals in the greater Philadelphia area.
I am a graduate of the Conservation Center at New York University, holding both an MA in Art History and an Advanced Certificate in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (2005), and am a Professional Associate member of the American Institute of Conservation for Historic and Artistic Works.
Currently our department also includes a Project Conservator, Molly Gleeson, and Post-graduate Fellow Tessa de Alarcon:
Molly Gleeson Project Conservator
I joined the Museum in September 2012 as the Project Conservator for the new exhibit "In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies."As an archaeological and ethnographic conservator, I have experience working on artifacts from all over the world. I was drawn to this position for the opportunity to work in depth on materials from the Museum's Egyptian collection, and also for the public outreach component of this job, which I particularly enjoy.
I received a BA in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware and an MA from the UCLA/Getty Master's Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. Before coming to Penn, I worked and interned in museums in Alaska, California, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C. and on archaeological sites on Easter Island, in Chile and in the U.S. My first experience working on mummified human remains was on UCLA's Tarapacá Valley Archaeological Project in northern Chile.
Outside of the museum, I try to stay actively involved in our conservation and allied professionals communities-both locally and nationally. I am currently serving as the Chair of the American Institute for Conservation's Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN).
To read more about my work at the museum and in the Artifact Lab, please visit our blog.
Tessa de Alarcon Post-graduate Fellow, Kourion Digitization Project
I started at the Penn Museum as a third year graduate intern and have been lucky enough to be able to stay on as a Post-graduate Fellow. As a fellow I get to focus on a single project, Digital Kourion. For this project I have been working on a condition survey of all of the objects from Kourion Cyprus and the associated sites of Sotira Teppes, Ayios Ermoyenis, Bamboula, and Kaloriziki, These sites encompass a huge time range (5000 BCE – 300 CE), and as a result a wide range of material types are represented as well. This is one of the things I love about the project since I get to work with ceramics, bone, ivory, glass, metal, stone, and faience as well as see how the handling of these materials changed in the region over time. I am also photographing much of the collection as well as treating objects that need stabilization. Stay tuned for updates to the Penn Museum Online Collection as a result! I graduated from the UCLA/Getty Master's Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials in 2012. As a graduate student I explored my interests in archaeological conservation through internships working with active field projects. This included internships at Kaman-Kalehöyük an archaeological lab in Turkey run by the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology and the lab for the El Zotz project in Antigua, Guatemala.