Julia Lawson, Conservation
I have been a Conservator in the Penn Museum since 1998, when I arrived as an intern from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). This, however, was not my original career path. I had graduated many years prior from Moore College of Art with a B.A. in Illustration and went to work next door at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in the Exhibits Department. As this institution dates to the early 19th century, some of the objects in the collections understandably showed some wear and tear, and it quickly became my goal to search for ways to breathe new exhibit life into old specimens (and save them from a second death). Through this pursuit my colleagues and I became aware of the field of art conservation and I was impressed by its career possibilities. Unfortunately, financial constraints led me instead to work for advertising agencies, a trade show exhibit firm and various other concerns. But I missed museums. By the early ‘90s, I decided that it was now or never and went back to school for pre-conservation program classes at Rutgers, followed by volunteer and technician work in various conservation departments in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. From there it was on to WUDPAC and the Penn Museum.
That first year here at Penn Museum I had great experiences conserving a wonderfully wide variety of objects and materials. I hated the prospect of leaving after only one year, so I applied for and was granted a Kress fellowship for a second year. One project lead to another until it became clear that this is my professional home.