Profile of a Museum Designer
Name: Jeff Weatherston
Position: I am one of two principals in the design practice of WeatherstonBruer Associates (WBA) which I formed in 2004 with James Bruer, who is the firm’s other principal.
Where do you work?
Toronto, Canada, is the company’s home base, but I have worked on projects throughout Canada, the United States, and more recently, internationally.
How many years have you been working in this capacity?
I now have over 25 years of experience working in the museum world. The design and planning of collection facilities has become a central focus in my work.
When did you join SPNHC?
Early in 2016, but I began attending and making presentations at SPNHC conferences in 2004 upon the encouragement of Tim White, of the Yale Peabody Museum, one of my firm’s earliest clients.
What drew you to the natural history field?
I suppose I’ve always had a general interest, but it has been sharpened over the course of my work with varied collections, and the folks I’ve met; clients and SPNHC members in general. My academic background starts with my Bachelor of Science in 1980 (University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario), and continued on with a Bachelor of Environmental Design Studies in 1983 and a Bachelor of Architecture in 1985 (Dalhousie University School of Architecture in Halifax, Nova Scotia).
Describe the nature of the collections you work with.
Today, I work with a wide range of cultural institutions, but find my involvement with Natural History Museums and the development of collection facilities particularly gratifying. Hence I may not work directly with the collections, but rather with them indirectly through the collection managers and curators I work with. I have designed facilities for zoological (the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, Denver Museum of Nature and Science), botanical (Harvard University Herbarium, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Herbaria), geological (Geological Survey of Canada, Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard) and general (the New York State Museum) entities — so I have experience across the board in terms of discipline.
What are your responsibilities for them?
My work spans the entire range of activities associated with the development of new facilities, from early planning exercises and the assessment of requirements, to the design of new or renovated facilities, to the preparation of detailed design documents and specifications needed to build those facilities.
Describe some of your activities.
The work includes spending many hours working closely with collection managers and curators in their collections, helping assess the specific needs of their particular collection, and exploring opportunities for improving the conditions in which the collections, and the folks who care for them, are housed.
What do you find most interesting about your work?
This is a difficult question to answer because I enjoy many aspects of the work. Certainly the opportunity to work on many different types of projects in different locations would be high on the list. This also allows me the opportunity to work on a wide variety of collections, and with the folks associated with those collections.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Some of the projects I am most proud of include the Environmental Sciences Center and West Campus facilities at the Yale Peabody Museum, the new collection facilities at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, and the Avenir Collection Center at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I was involved with these projects early in my career and they have all finally come to fruition after years of working closely with the dedicated folks at these institutions.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
As most SPNHC members know, it can take many years, if not decades, for a collection facility to evolve from those early conceptual and fund raising discussions to a finished project. So it is most gratifying when one is able to see those efforts through and finally transform into a vibrant and successful collection facility.
What have you learned from SPNHC to be particularly helpful? How has SPNHC helped you?
The conferences have become an important educational tool that keep me up-to-date with the evolving requirements and advancements in collection care that can be an important part of designing collection facilities. They also allow me to stay connected and in touch with many of my clients who have become both friends as well as colleagues over the years.