My work as a conservator has focused on the relationship between museums and conservation, particularly in relation to Indigenous peoples’ material culture housed in museums. During my work over more than two decades as senior conservator at MOA, the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, B.C., I was questioned by many Indigenous people about museum preservation and its numerous implications. This led me to profoundly reconsider the traditional norms, approaches, and code of ethics in the field of conservation.
I have published a scholarly book, Preserving What is Valued: Museums, Conservation and First Nations (UBC Press) and many articles on changes in museums and in conservation in response to Indigenous concerns. These publications examined the museum itself in addition to conservation’s values and practices. As well, this focus meant I also explored underlying, broad issues embedded in conservation such as the preservation of cultural significance.
In addition, for many years I taught at several universities. I am retired now and Conservator Emerita and Research Associate at MOA.
On a personal note, why did I choose museums and conservation? I grew up within walking distance of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and was very fortunate to be able to work in their Ontario Archaeology Department after graduating with my B.A. I was introduced to conservation and began training as a conservator at the ROM, and subsequently moved to the National Historic Sites Service, first in Ottawa and, after completing my Master of Art Conservation at Queen’s University in Kingston, to Quebec City. In 1980 I became MOA’s first conservator.