Interview with Sarah Stauderman

A trained paper and audio-visual conservator, Sarah is currently in charge of the Collections Care Division of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Collections Care deals with preservation and conservation across the Smithsonian, and manages photograph fulfillment for the historic Smithsonian Photographic Services photo archive. Sarah was a key member of the planning committee for the Smithsonian Institution Preservation Environment Summit held on March 5th

Sarah StaudermanName:
Sarah Stauderman

Current Title:
Collections Care Manager at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. I’ve been at SIA since 2000. My position has evolved to include the historic photograph services department of the Smithsonian, in addition to overseeing the conservation lab and preservation activities of SI Archives. Prior to work at SIA, I worked at VidiPax – a magnetic media restoration company – in New York, forging the new job title “magnetic media conservator.”

Where were you born?
I was born in Philadelphia, but I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where my father was a production manager for Proctor & Gamble’s television commercials and my mother was a librarian. It wasn’t uncommon for members of my family to gather around the television specifically to give a full critique of a new TV advertisement (forget about the sitcom). I recall Christmas presents wrapped with ribbons made from cut film strips.

What was your professional training?
I received a master’s degree in paper conservation from the art conservation program at Buffalo State College (State University College of New York) in 1997.

What was your very first job?
Long before I became a conservator I entertained the notion of becoming a set and costume designer, so I free-lanced at that in Chicago and held a day job with the van Straaten art gallery and later the Museum of Contemporary Art, both in Chicago, Illinois.

What would your dream job be?
I have it.

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
I had a post-graduate fellowship in 1997 with the Smithsonian’s conservation analytical laboratory (now known as Museum Conservation Institute), with paper conservator and mentor Dianne Van Der Reyden. Dianne opened the world of preventive conservation concepts to me, and that included introducing me to the survey techniques used to identify deteriorating acetate negatives using AD Strips – a great IPI product – and then inviting Jim Reilly to present at a workshop on preservation of photograph collections that she organized. Later, when I was involved in the preservation of magnetic media and the research around that material, IPI asked me to participate in a research project that they had developed on the subject. Finally, SIA has used IPI’s Climate Notebook® and Preservation Environment Monitors® almost from their beginnings.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
…and archives collections! Caring for the artifacts of our past seems to me to be a very respectful and honoring way of caring for where we – all people – came from, and it something I have abilities in. This is an important concept to me that is harder to articulate than to feel.

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
I really like the work of contemporary artists, especially those working in electronic media. I find these works inspiring, confusing, funny, and pretty, and sometimes profound or sacred.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have?
Hobbies wax and wane, but I dabble in a number of handy activities from cooking to sewing. I have a significant interest in making sure that our dog Wilbur gets enough exercise.

What book (or books) would you take with you to a desert island?
Can I have a Kindle with a solar powered connection?

What is your most treasured possession?
My family is by far the most important and treasured part of my life, but not a possession!

What is your greatest indulgence?
Singing at work, much to the chagrin of my co-workers.

What was the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
The breadth of services and expertise that IPI brings to the preservation community.