Interview with Patricia Ford

Patti Ford, IPI’s Project Manager, manages the activities and documentation of several grant funded projects and provides outreach to the field through promotion and publication development. She is the content creator behind the scenes of the Climate Notes Newsletter and was responsible for the creation of IPI’s Guide to Sustainable Preservation Practices for Managing Storage Environments. Patti enjoys crafting, overcast days, and having a good laugh about the ridiculous people on reality tv shows.

Patricia FordName:  
Patricia (Patti) Ford
Quick Overview:
I will have been at IPI for almost 11 years. My career began many, many years ago at the Gallery Association of New York State (now called the Exhibition Alliance) in central New York. That job taught me the basics of collection care and record-keeping, and led to a job at the Rochester Museum & Science Center in Rochester, NY. At RMSC I advanced from Collection Care Assistant to Registrar to Assistant Director of Collections over 18+ years. After some freelance work, I found my way to IPI.

Where were you born?
I was born in Hamilton, NY and grew up on a 1,000 acre family-run dairy farm nearby.

What was your professional training?
My bachelor’s degree is in Art History, but all of my training took place on the job. I learned from a few very good mentors and several very bad examples over the years.

What was your very first job?
Babysitting for 50 cents an hour. After college my first job was Salad Maker at Colgate University—try peeling 250 boiled eggs to make devilled eggs someday.

What would your dream job be?
Is recluse a job?

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
I heard of IPI and their preservation research when I was working in Rochester in the 1980s. My first contact occurred when I was working at the Rochester Historical Society about 13 years ago. We had a trial run of the original PEM datalogger, and I gave Jim Reilly and Ed Zinn a tour of the photo collection. Soon after I applied for a job at the George Eastman House in Rochester, and Jim was one of the interviewers. I didn’t get that job but he called to see if I would be interested in working at IPI and I was happy to accept.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
I’m not sure how it started, because I don’t think I ever visited a museum or a library until I was in college. I was interested in art, but lacked enough talent to pursue it and turned to art history instead. A general interest in both art and history, and a compulsive need to organize and label everything led to a career in collection care and record keeping.

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
I favor realism and character, and was initially drawn to the Northern Renaissance Period – my favorite artist was Jan Van Eyck for a long time. I love Michelangelo’s caricature drawings. I also like kitschy folk art or any art that shows a sense of humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have?
Based on my interest in realism and character, I make "art" dolls and I sometimes sketch people during long meetings.

What book or books would you like to have with you if you were marooned on a desert island?
If I don’t have my glasses they would have to be large-print books or I’m screwed. Not to be repetitious, but I like character-driven books, good stories, and the occasional true crime novel.

What is your most treasured possession?
I would probably choose a whirligig or piece of furniture that my father made—he took up carpentry and folk art when he retired from farming.

What is your greatest indulgence?
Sleeping late on the weekends. If I can sleep late and stay in my pajamas for hours, it’s a great day.

What is the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
It’s a very comfortable place to work, without the ego and pettiness that seems to pervade so many other workplaces. We’re able to accomplish a lot and still enjoy each other’s company.