Home / Conservation / Volunteer Opportunities


Volunteer Opportunities

Conservation Volunteers Seek Specialized Experiences

[This article was first published in Volunteer Times (Winter 2005; Vol. 10, No.2)]

MHS conservation lab
Conservation volunteer Crystal Stevenson and objects curator Tom Braun are preparing Red Wing pottery for a summer 2006 exhibit.

People volunteer for many reasons, but some conservation volunteers seek very specialized experiences to fulfill requirements before entering a professional conservation program.

In order to apply to these programs, applicants must accumulate up to 400 volunteer hours in a conservation lab; take coursework in art history, studio art and chemistry; and prepare a portfolio.

For the past year, Crystal Stevenson has gathered a variety of conservation experiences. She began in the Society's paper lab, making book boxes and encapsulating maps. Then she spent time at the Upper Midwest Conservation Association in Minneapolis and has since returned to the Society to work with Tom Braun in the objects lab, preparing pottery for the Red Wing exhibit opening in summer 2006.

Crystal says, "I have been extremely fortunate to have this opportunity. Not only are the facilities advanced and the collection immense, but the conservators are knowledgeable and friendly. Working with the Red Wing pottery collections, I have learned about ceramic processes, glazes and the general history of these intriguing pieces. This has been an important experience for me, as I plan on obtaining a master's degree in art conservation."

Head of Conservation Sherelyn Ogden says, "We have some of the best labs and conservators in the United States at this institution, and we feel obligated as professional conservators to share our knowledge and promote the profession. We need to help others get their start."

There are also benefits to having volunteers active in the labs. Sherelyn adds, "We get valuable labor to do some of the more routine, ongoing tasks, such as tearing paper strips, which frees up our time to devote to more complex treatments." Additionally, the conservators go over the basics of their profession with the volunteers, which provides them with a review of the fundamentals.

Other volunteers in the paper lab include Renee Willkom and Dee Ann Olson. Renee is doing basic paper repair and tape removal. She is enrolled in the Master's of Library Science program at the College of St. Catherine. Dee Ann is making book storage boxes, which allows Bryan Johnson, conservation assistant, to do book repair. Dee Ann is getting a master's degree in museum studies at Hamline University, focusing on the future of the book.

"We are very grateful for the volunteers' help," says Sherelyn. "There are things we just couldn't get done without them. We truly value them."

Other Opportunities

Check out other internship and volunteer opportunities available throughout the Minnesota Historical Society.