Interview with Shae Trewin

Early this year IPI decided to hire a second Preservation Environment Specialist to meet the growing need for our environmental consulting services and other outreach activities. Twenty-five individuals applied and several were interviewed before we chose to hire Shae Trewin. We were impressed by her range of experience, interest in research, and ability to learn quickly. She started work at IPI on June 1st. Before that, Shae was the Collection Manager of the Division of Historical Scientific Instruments at the Yale Peabody Museum for over 5 years.

Shae TrewinName:
Shae Trewin

Where were you born?
I was born in Sale which is a small town in rural Victoria on the south east coast of mainland Australia.

What was your professional training?
I have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in History & Philosophy of Science and Psychology from the University of Melbourne. When I moved to Connecticut I was studying by correspondence for my master’s degree in Cultural Heritage from Deakin University and at the same time was volunteering with the Yale Peabody Museum. So, I had a wonderful combination of theory and practical experience. I volunteered with the mineralogy collection manager who also had to manage the historical scientific instruments in her non-existent free time.  I also volunteered with Catherine Sease in the conservation lab and she was the best mentor and teacher I’ve ever had.

What was your very first job?
I was a library assistant at Queen’s College in Melbourne. I would do the usual return book shelving, book retrieval and check-out books in the general collection. The college also has one of the largest holdings of Methodist material in the southern hemisphere so that was my first exposure to the proper handling and storage of rare material.

What would your dream job be?
I’m torn on this one because I always wanted to be a museum consultant to work on different projects with different institutions but at the same time I love working with collections and writing histories of objects.

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
With a job search! I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard of IPI until I saw the job advertisement for a preservation environment specialist but when I asked my former colleagues what they thought of IPI everyone had such high praises of IPI’s work and reputation. So, I was very excited to join the team.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
Two reasons, I am a firm believer in object-based learning and secondly I think by nature I’m kind of anti-technology. There is so much one can learn from a material object, more than what you can see from a photograph or scan. I also get very concerned when I see major libraries starting to divest themselves of books and journals with the argument that they are all accessible online. One of my favorite quotes from a former Yale President is “what is a curator if he has nothing to curate?”

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
I am a huge fan of portraits in any form, traditional or contemporary. I love the portrait galleries in London and in DC. My favorite work of art is Mrs. James Guthrie by Frederic Leighton at the Yale Center for British Art.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have?
I sing and I also play the cello, eventually I would like to get back into playing with ensembles again.

What book (or books) would you take with you to a desert island?
It would be a biography of some historical figure, probably a scientist or prominent politician.

What is your most treasured possession?
I think that would be family, after living abroad for so long and moving around you come to realize that stuff is stuff and the most important thing is home and family.

What is your greatest indulgence?
Fruit and nut milk chocolate.

What was the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
I think what impressed me most is how IPI has made their products and research easy to comprehend without compromising the underlying principles or message. As a former collection manager I know how time limited collection staff can be so I can appreciate for example how much time eClimatenotebook can save with uploading data or data analysis and at the same time I know it is reliable and has almost two decades of research behind its design.