Profile of an Objects Conservator
Name: Diana Hobart Dicus
Position: Objects Conservator
Institution: In private practice as an objects and preventive conservation conservator, working out of Boise, Idaho. Have not always worked independently, but have also served as a Conservation Fellow at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, and been on the conservation staff at the Bishop Museum of Anthropology and Natural History, Honolulu.
When did you join SPNHC? I joined SPHNC in 1991.
What drew you to the natural history field?
I am drawn to artifacts, especially ethnographic objects. They are usually composed of a variety of materials, related to natural history specimens
Describe the nature of the collections you work with.
I work with multi-media collections. I study their housing environment, the storage, exhibition, care, and preventive conservation for artifacts and specimens. I work with curators and collection managers.
What are your responsibilities for collections?
It is my responsibility to develop a relationship of mutual trust with those who have the primary responsibility for collections. Together we can then work toward developing appropriate collection environments, storage, exhibition, care, and preventive conservation strategies to ensure the stability of collections for a variety of uses. The sharing of specific knowledge and experience by those who have the primary care of natural history collections is invaluable to me.
Describe some of your activities.
I help museum collection people with grant writing. I do environment or collection surveys, with written observations, recommendations or suggestions, always with photographic documentation of collections surveyed. I present collection care workshops. I respond to threatened collections following fire, flood, or mold growth. I treat individual artifacts or groups of artifacts, whether for exhibition or in storage.
What do you find most interesting about your work?
I enjoy the people I meet through collection work. I respect and admire the commitment and the care that staff, volunteers, and private owners give to their collections. I am grateful if I am able to assist collection curators, managers, registrars, technicians, volunteers, and private owners in their collection care.
I appreciate the wide variety of materials, conditions, people, and landscapes that I have been able to see and with which I have been able to interact.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I don’t know. I am grateful to have been able to work in the conservation field for more than 20 years. My goal is to provide or enhance the stability of collections, artifacts and specimens so that they are available for research, interpretation and education. I want them to be able to tell their story, to give insight and information.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
It is fulfilling when I am able to bring a damaged or deteriorated artifact or specimen to a relatively stable condition; where it can be shared, studied and enjoyed by whomever owns and cares for it. It is also fulfilling when I am able to work together with an institution to improve collection care, storage, exhibition, documentation.
What have you learned from SPNHC to be particularly helpful?
I have learned about materials, techniques, and scientific research from the publications, the occasional papers or tip sheets, the meeting presentations and posters. It is always useful to see how people present information, even though it may not be new information.
How has SPNHC helped you?
The philosophy and guidelines of SPNHC inform my examination, recording, diagnosis, action, recording, and care of artifacts and specimens. SPNHC has provided me with an invaluable network of colleagues to whom I can turn for insight, vendors, and references.