The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Preservation Magazine features UD doctoral alumna Susan
Buck in their recent list of eight women making a difference through
the maintenance and restoration of historic places. Buck, who received her Ph.D. in Art Conservation Research (the UD doctoral program that preceded the Preservation Studies Program) in 2003, was interviewed for the article by NTHP staff member Meghan P. White. Excerpted from the article—entitled "The Journeys and Experiences of Eight Women in Hands-On Preservation Careers"—in the Preservation Magazine Summer 2019 issue:
magazine, we love researching and writing about places related
to women’s history. But we’re equally interested in the major roles
women currently play in maintaining and restoring historic places.
That’s why we’re highlighting a group of outstanding women in hands-on
The eight professionals we’ve chosen
(from a long list of worthy candidates) specialize in different areas of
restoration—painting, window repair, timber framing,
and stained glass, to name a few. They’re at varied points in their
careers, and they hail from both urban and rural areas around the
country. But they all blend art, science, and preservation know-how with
a deep love for what they do—and they all have interesting
and inspiring stories to tell.
. . . .
Susan Buck (Williamsburg, Virginia)
If you’ve walked the halls of some of the nation’s foremost buildings—George Washington’s Mount Vernon,
Monticello, Drayton Hall (a National Trust Historic Site)—chances are you’ve also ambled past a hidden, miniscule chip in a wall. Conservator and paint analyst Susan Buck
has left her mark—literally—almost everywhere she goes, and she goes to a lot of places.
"I’m trained as an art conservator. I started off as a furniture conservator specializing in finishes and
painted objects. At the nonprofit
Historic New England, I began
working with architectural materials, answering questions about clear
finishes, stains, and paint. Today, about 70 percent of my work is
architectural conservation, and 30 percent is furniture
I’m currently working with the
World Monuments Fund
on the Qianlong Garden at the Forbidden City in China. I’ve also been
working on and off at the Nathaniel Russell House, Monticello, and Mount
since the 1990s, and you keep thinking, “How much more is there to
discover?” But we’re still discovering new information.
my epifluorescence microscope, I can identify clear coatings, define
paint generations through layers
of dirt, determine periods of the building based on paint
stratigraphies, and more—all from a paint chip that measures no more
than a quarter of an inch. I’m trying to be as careful as possible. You
can get a tremendous amount of info from a tiny sample.
It’s like a giant puzzle: How do all these pieces fit together? It’s so satisfying, especially where the
physical evidence is the only thing that remains, to figure out the answers.
can last anywhere from a month, like a job I just finished that
involved a Georgian period room,
or up to two years or more, like at the University of Virginia, an
enormous project where I’ve been working on all 10 Pavilions and the
Rotunda. Even though I’m a sole practitioner, I’m always working with
professionals—architects, preservationists, conservators,
curators, and architectural historians. The best projects have a team
To read the full article and see more stories of women working in conservation, visit the Preservation Magazine website here.