These boots were made for walking

We said goodbye to Melissa, our conservator, last week.  She will be heading off to Delaware to serve as the Library Conservator at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and as Affiliated Faculty for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation.  She will be shaping the minds, philosophical approaches, and conservation skills of our future library and archives conservators.  I know that she will do a great job not only teaching them book conservation techniques and the research that informs the approach to treating unique items and their problems, but also a sensitivity to the context and setting of these objects when making the treatment decision. She had a lot of exposure to this kind of decision-making while juggling the needs of our special collections materials and general collections, having to prioritize workflows for exhibits, digitization, disaster salvage, general book repair, and conservation treatment and housing for a wide variety of artifacts.

Photo by Mindy Moeller


After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record with her MLIS and specialization in conservation, and interning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Melissa joined the ISU Preservation Department at the end of 2009.  In 2010 she was greeted with one of the snowiest winters in central Iowa from January to March and a flood in August that resulted in thousands of flood damaged architectural drawings requiring treatment.  We were certain she would leave after that, but she stuck around for four more years and we are grateful for everything she accomplished, and of course, her boot collection–turquoise cowboy boots, polka dot rain boots, snow boots, hiking boots, fashion boots, you name it.

Boots2 crop

Without launching into a litany of accomplishments, and there were many, I want to highlight something that Melissa managed to do that I thought would be impossible.  When Melissa started at ISU, she kept having to correct her colleagues as to which public university in Iowa she represented.  She took it upon herself to put the ISU Library Preservation Department “on the map.”  She started our social media presence and launched our Facebook page and this blog site which has received national recognition.  With a little help from her co-workers and the joint 1091 Project with Beth Doyle at Duke University, she was able to share the goings-on in the department with other conservators, preservation specialists, students, library staff, and the general public.  The blog now has 368 posts, 686 comments, 76 followers, and 136,420 all time views.  She did it!  She reached a lot of individuals who may or may not have known that the department existed or were uncertain as to what we do.  We are less often mistaken for that other Iowa university to the east of us.

We will miss Melissa and her many boots!

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