Diversity in Collections Care

Stephenie Schwartz Bailey ‘92 never took a museum studies class at Beloit. Her passion was art history, which she has taught to all ages, from preschoolers to undergraduates. However, after years of working at a number of archives and museumsincluding the National Gallery of Art and the Art Institute of ChicagoSchwartz Bailey finds herself in her ninth year as the Education Program Manager and Preservation Consultant at the Conservation Center for Art & Historical Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia.

Stephenie Schwartz Bailey ’92 connects audiences to educational programs and tours, develops and plans conservation training, teaches workshops—and in doing so, brings preservation awareness to cultural heritage professionals around the world. Recently, Schwartz Bailey is bringing a different type of awareness to the field.

This past March, the CCAHA (Conservation Center for Art and Historical Artifacts) hosted Diversity in Collections Care: Many Voices, a two-day virtual colloquium that sought to “promote exchange of research, dialogue, and inspiration.” Schwartz Bailey developed the colloquium after recognizing both the lack of diversity among collections professionals and the lack of diversity in the physical objects being cared forso often, Western European objects are given precedence over others, which enforces long-held narratives that they are the most “worthy” of preservation.

Schwartz Bailey thought the colloquium was successful, but not because of the capacity-exceeding and diverse registration. Rather, it was when a participant commented that in considering her work ahead, “suddenly I don’t feel so alone.”

When asked if she had any advice for Beloit students, especially those looking into a career in museums and archives, Schwartz Bailey answered that students should stay curious. “I wasn’t even a museum studies major at Beloit, but now have twenty-five years of collections management experience in museums and archives,” she said. “This is because Beloit College nurtured in me a tenacity to investigate whatever I was passionate about.”

Schwartz Bailey explained that she found the areas she explored at Beloitsuch as writing and mathematicsare critical to cultural heritage preservation. “So follow each and every whim, compulsion, or senseless adventure,” Schwartz Bailey advises, “at least for a few precious years.”

May 03, 2021
  • Stephenie Schwartz Bailey ’92, second from left, removes a damaged painting from its frame.
    Photo provided by Stephenie Schwartz Bailey.

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