Interview with Dr. Joelle Wickens

Dr. Joelle Wickens is an Associate Conservator, Preventive Team Head and Winterthur Assistant Professor at Winterthur and the University of Delaware.

Dr. Joelle WickensName:  
Dr. Joelle Wickens
Quick Overview:
I have worked for Winterthur and the University of Delaware since May 2008.  My focus was initially textile conservation but my responsibilities have slowly evolved. Now I primarily practice and teach preventive conservation. I am also a founding member and the current chair of AIC’s Collection Care Network. Prior to coming to Winterthur, I worked as a contract textile conservator for Conservation Services, Textile Conservation Centre, Winchester, England.

Where were you born?
I was born in Portland, Maine and grew up in Westbrook, a small town just to the west of Portland. I grew up with 3 siblings. My mom and dad put great emphasis on introducing us to the arts and the vast, diverse world. My favorite subjects in high school were math and chemistry. My passion was ballet. It was not a straight line from there to a career in conservation but these things were certainly elements of the foundation I built upon.

What was your professional training?
I received a BA in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania (1989). I studied for my MA and PhD at the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton, Winchester, England. My masters is in textile conservation (2001). My PhD work was in the area of the conservation of 20th century foam upholstered furniture (2008).

What was your very first job?
Other than baby sitting, it was the summer before I started college. I worked in the customer service department at S D Warren, the paper mill that was the main business in the town where I grew up. My first full-time job, right after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, was Youth Director for the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Philadelphia, PA

What would your dream job be?
When I decided to pursue a career in conservation I always said my dream job would be one where I could both practice and teach conservation. I have that and I feel incredibly fortunate. Now, as I dream about what could be, I think I would love to help establish and work for a national or international organization founded to provide preventive conservation and collection care support for the thousands and thousands of small historical societies, archives, museums, libraries, etc. The organization would employ regionally based conservators and collection care specialists. These people would provide guidance and training for participating institution's employees and volunteers as well as do some hands on collection care work. I would manage this team of conservators and collection care specialists.

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
I first learned about IPI when a colleague, Bruno Pouliot, organized a seminar on Climate Notebook. The seminar was for Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation students minoring in preventive conservation. I continued to learn more about IPI due to Winterthur's use of this software and IPI's participation in seminars on environmental management. Winterthur's current partnership with IPI results from a successful NEH Sustaining Collections grant. The funded work is helping to make Winterthur's environmental management system more sustainable and IPI is a partner in that work.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
Preserving the past is paramount to forging a positive, informed, evolving, and healthier future for the entire world. For me, it is as simple and as complicated as that.

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
Dance is my favorite type of art and specifically classical ballet. As a dancer, dance provided me a physical outlet for emotional expression. As an observer it brings music and emotion to life for me. Rudolf Nureyev is my favorite dancer. His ability to combine physical and emotional expression through classical ballet is unsurpassed.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have?
I love to knit. My mom taught me the basics when I was 15. It has been a passion since that day.

What book or books would you like to have with you if you were marooned on a desert island?
That depends. If I am being voluntarily marooned for a week or two I would like to take the Booker Prize winners from the last 10 or 15 years. I’d love a chance to read them all one after the other. If the marooning is involuntary and unplanned I would need more time to decide!

What is your most treasured possession?
I have possessions that mean a lot to me but the ‘things’ I treasure most are my memories, my experiences and the people who enjoy those experiences and make memories with me.

What is your greatest indulgence?
I’m not very good at indulging myself so when I do the actual act of allowing an indulgence is probably my greatest indulgence of all.

What is the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
The breadth of knowledge IPI represents and the willingness to share that knowledge.