Interview with Tara Kennedy

Tara is the Preservation Field Services Librarian at Yale University Library. She has been at Yale for over five years, which is the longest she has worked anywhere! Before that, she was Head of the Paper Laboratory at the Gerald Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, Nebraska, a Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History, and an Intern at the National Archives. Tara has also worked as a preservation consultant for various cultural institutions around the country for a number of years.  

Tara KennedyName:
Tara Kennedy

Where were you born?
Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We left for Chicago after six months, much to my mother’s chagrin because she wanted a little girl with freckles who had a southern accent. One out of two isn’t bad.

What was your professional training?
I have a BA in Art History from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and a MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin with an Certificate of Advanced Study in Library and Archives Conservation.  Sadly, the program at Texas just closed within the last year.  

What was your very first job?
Besides babysitting random neighborhood kids, selling penny tickets to “shows” we’d perform in the garage, and hocking Girl Scout cookies? I worked at a video store (remember those?!). I was terrified to put back the pornographic videos so I would let the boys have the honor of doing that.

What would your dream job be?
A forensic document examiner or a Broadway musical theater actress. Or a combination of the two – I guess that would be a character on CSI who bursts into song at random, inappropriate moments? Or a role in CSI: the Musical?

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
I was introduced to Climate Notebook® by Jim Reilly when I was a Conservation Intern at the National Archives in 2000.  I didn’t get the opportunity to work with IPI until I came to Yale in 2005, when Yale participated in one of the field trials for PEMs and Climate Notebook. I’ve been bothering IPI ever since.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
I think I would have to say my overall interest in social history and art is enough for me to be a champion of cultural collections.  I think objects really tell the story more than any picture of the said object could.  It is so much more telling of the artist/ creator if you’re standing in front of it and sharing space with it.  Seeing the artwork in person can also give you a completely different opinion of the artist or the artwork itself: the Mona Lisa is way more impressive in person and I have a whole new respect for Van Gogh once I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
Johannes Vermeer, before anyone knew who he was. I fought a blizzard in 1995 and won to see his first retrospective show in the United States. For the record, “Woman Holding a Balance” and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” are the perfect sensory combination in my opinion.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have?
Stage performing (musicals and plays), obsessing over music in general, collecting 45s from the 1980s, genealogy, forensic science, crossword puzzles, playing the guitar, karaoke...

What book (or books) would you take with you to a desert island?
Assassination Vacation (Vowell); Helter Skelter (Bugliosi); Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll; Girl Interrupted (Kaysen); In Cold Blood (Capote); Naked (Sedaris)

What is your most treasured possession?
My intelligence... Seriously. STOP LAUGHING! No really, it’s the thing that I’ve always had and have been glad to have throughout my life, even if it did cause me trouble sometimes...

What is your greatest indulgence?
Cheese fries with REAL cheddar cheese (none of that cheez sauce stuff) and bacon! Yum!

What was the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
I can’t say this is surprising per se, but I am always impressed with the depth and breadth of knowledge that the folks over at IPI have. That and their ability to create interesting and relevant projects for those of us that are in the business of protecting collections. Many of their tools have been a huge help in my work and I always recommend their publications and products.