This is the final post in our series from the students in Honors Seminar 321V, Smelling Old Books: The Art & Science of Preserving Our Past.  The students were asked to consider ways in which learning about heritage preservation has changed their attitude about any aspect of their relationship to the objects around them in their daily lives and habits.

Katie Gerst

I have been toying with the idea of becoming an art conservator for a few years, but I’m not entirely convinced that it is the correct path for me. The best I can do right now is prepare for the graduate school application process, and see what I decide when the time comes. It doesn’t hurt anything to take a few extra classes. Regardless of my choice to be a conservator or not, my material choices as an artist will forever be affected. I could purposely choose a medium that does not stand strong through the test of time, or I could pick a more stable material depending on the project.

Click on this image to visit AIC's "Become a Conservator" guide to conservation education and training.

When looking at my family’s photographs, I now see the adhesive backing of the photo albums as more than a producer of an annoying sound.  You know the sound: kind of like Velcro, but stickier. It’s not pleasant. Today, with a fresh set of preservation goggles, I now know that that adhesive backing could be a photograph killer! What would we do if our photos of the 1973 family reunion were destroyed? How would we remember the good times and the bad hair? Luckily, I am now equipped with the knowledge that I need to get those photos into a more stable photo environment. Also, it’s probably time to digitally back-up those images.

Claire Wandro

As a child, my weekends were spent following my mother around auctions and flea markets.  We would scavenge and barter for treasures others threw away.  My mother’s favorite finds were old black and white portraits from the early twentieth-century in which children sit rigidly on their parent’s knees and ghostlike brides stand in their long lace dresses next to their ancient husbands, both staring mysteriously into the camera.

Instead of storing these prized possessions in an album or frame, my mother pasted the portraits to the walls in the back hallway of our home.  Layer by leayer, she glued.  And in between strangers, my mother added images of her parents, our cousins our brothers and sisters.  Portrait by portrait our back hallway became a collage of familiar faces, sending us off in the mornings and welcoming us as we arrive home.  Photos yellow, they rip, and from time-to-time, they fall.  Then, my mother adds another and it too becomes part of our home and of our family.

These photos are not preserved or conserved.  They are not protected safely between the pages of an album or in the archivesof a library storage room.  But, the images and stories the strange and familiar faces represent are important to and valued, as part of our home and our every day lives.