Diversity in Collections Care
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 for—so 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 Beloit—such as writing and mathematics—are 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.”