Greetings from Williamsburg, Virginia! I am currently working at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as a fellow in preventive conservation. While things are definitely not up and running normally, strategic planning and organization has allowed me and other staff to work on-site, socially-distanced with masks. Navigating an internship amidst a pandemic is certainly unprecedented; however, we are managing to work while prioritizing our physical and mental health. I am very fortunate to be here at my third-year site.
Major draws for training in preventive conservation at the Foundation are its magnitude and prioritization of preventive maintenance. The living history museum spans 300 acres with over forty historic sites and trades as well as two art museums. In the mid-1920s John D. Rockefeller Jr. led and funded the restoration of the historic sites in Williamsburg that eventually opened to the public and grew into what it is today. In order to preserve and maintain the expansive site, a team of conservators, architectural preservationists, as well as technicians, aides, interns and volunteers all work together to conserve the physical history present.
Covid-19 has made us think deeply about the work we and others do, as certain jobs were deemed "essential." Here at Colonial Williamsburg, conservation staff, including the Historic Interiors Collections Care (HICC) staff have continued to (safely) work through the pandemic. Pandemic or not, their work is essential to preservation. HICC staff fulfill many needs in collections care, but their primary responsibility lies in their care of the Colonial Williamsburg historic area. With nearly ninety historic structures as well as several reconstructed buildings open to the public, the HICC's team of twelve is always busy, being the eyes and ears of conservation. As technicians and aides visit sites weekly, they get to know their assigned buildings through close observation, noting any changes in collections or structures and identifying possible issues within mechanical systems, leaks, or pests. If you are wondering how much an old building really changes over time... well, potentially a lot. Anyone who has lived in an older structure or worked to care for one knows that left unchecked, deterioration can wreak havoc. Whether this results in flaking plaster, wall condensation, or warping of wooden elements, historic structures are dynamic systems responding to their environment. HICC staff know this better than anyone. My previous coursework in building pathologies and diagnostics have prepared me to maximize my learning from the ever-changing historic structures here at Colonial Williamsburg.