Associate Conservator, Mellon Initiative – University of Kansas Libraries and the Spencer Museum of Art

Position Overview

The associate conservator will be a joint appointment between the University of Kansas Libraries and the Spencer Museum of Art, and will contribute expertise that complements that of both institutions’ current staff.
The conservator will help manage and undertake a range of mission-critical operations of a new, state-of-the-art conservation laboratory including: evaluating damaged collections; making treatment decisions and performing conservation treatments on museum and library special collections materials; providing exhibition preparation and support; undertaking conservation assessments and surveys; and sharing conservation knowledge with diverse audiences. This position will be under the direct, day-to-day supervision of the Head of Conservation Services and will be formally reviewed and supported by a cross-institutional group whose expertise includes art, libraries, conservation, and education.
The ideal candidate will have an excellent background in paper conservation with a minimum of 3 years of relevant experience. The successful candidate will inform the development of a more collaborative model for the Libraries’ and the Museum’s shared conservation efforts. The associate conservator will make conservation more visible through varied outreach programs and educational outputs designed to raise awareness about the importance of conservation and to help diversify the field by exposing new prospects to conservation as a career path.
The KU Libraries and the Spencer Museum of Art strive to support and strengthen teaching, learning, and research at the University of Kansas and in communities across the state of Kansas and beyond. The Libraries’ holdings include three large collections: University Archives, the Kansas Collection, and Special Collections. University Archives is the repository for the records documenting the history of the University of Kansas. The Kansas Collection provides researchers with primary-source materials that document the history of Kansas and the region.
Special Collections contains a wide range of rare books and manuscripts that date from antiquity to present.
The Spencer Museum of Art’s collection of 45,000 objects represents more than 60 cultures across 6 continents, and 5,000 years of human history. The Spencer’s renowned collection of prints, drawings, photographs, and other works on paper represents more than half of the Museum’s permanent collection. The collection is acknowledged as one of the nation’s premier repositories of graphic arts among university art museums because of its depth, breadth, and the extensive manner in which it is used in teaching and research.

This position demonstrates a commitment to advancing diversity efforts in the Libraries and contributes to an inclusive environment.
See images of KU’s new conservation lab at the following link:

Job Description

70%    Professional Performance 

  • Conducts collection assessments to prioritize treatments, establishes workflows and policies, and determines quality control for work performed in collaboration with Museum and Libraries staff.
  • Performs complex conservation tasks that require knowledge and expertise in multiple techniques to solve unique problems. Treatments applied in combination include, but are not limited to: washing and alkalization, humidification and flattening, light bleaching, backing removal, lining, mounting, stain reduction, hinge removal, tear and loss repair, compensation, retouching, suction table techniques, and safe handling procedures during solvent use.
  • Documents and carries out proposed treatments to Museum and Libraries’ materials with minimal supervision and in adherence with the American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice and/or international equivalents.
  • Designs and constructs both simple and complex custom-fitting enclosures for fragile materials, bearing in mind the unique needs of those formats and their chemical interactions with the materials available for construction.
  • Assists with stabilization and preparation of materials for processing, accessioning, exhibition, and loan.
  • Assists with the maintenance of work areas in the conservation lab, including researching and ordering supplies and equipment.
  • Contributes to the identification of materials needing treatment in the Museum’s and the Libraries’ collections that would support University priorities.
  • Participates in KU Libraries and Museum departmental meetings and planning activities.
  • Compiles statistics and prepares reports as appropriate.

15% Research

  • Supports and participates in research to answer questions pertinent to the study of the Museum’s and Libraries’ collections as physical objects and educational resources.
  • Conducts research to identify causes of condition problems and to develop appropriate treatment and storage.
  • Conducts personal research on conservation projects and shares findings, publications, or presentations at professional gatherings or in print.
  • Stays current with theoretical discourse and best practices in the field through literature review and attending presentations, conferences, and training opportunities.

15% Outreach & Service

  • Serves as a spokesperson to internal and external audiences on the importance and methods of long-term preservation of our collective heritage.
  • Contributes to teaching at KU, as a guest lecturer, co-instructor, and/or sole instructor.
  • Advises and trains staff in best practices for the care, handling, display, storage, packing, and shipping of art on paper collections.
  • Assists with identification of visiting conservators/conservation scholars.
  • Contributes to the development of interpretive materials that highlight conservation of materials exhibited at the Museum and the Libraries.
  • Supervises students and interns as appropriate.

Required Qualifications

  1. Master’s degree from a recognized conservation training program, or demonstration of a similar level of education and training required for the conservation of art collections and rare library materials.
  2. Minimum of 3 years of relevant experience with a strong foundation in paper conservation.
  3. Exceptional manual skills and ability to perform high quality conservation treatments as demonstrated by a portfolio of work.

Preferred Qualifications

  1. Demonstrated knowledge of conservation ethics and practices relevant to museum and library collections and demonstrated adherence to the American Institute for Conservation’s Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice and/or international equivalents.
  2. Ability to work independently and in a collaborative environment with professionals outside the conservation field.
  3. Strong communication skills and familiarity with educational objectives.
  4. Expertise in conserving photographs.
  5. Teaching experience at a university level.
  6. Experience working collaboratively in an academic research library, art museum, or archive.
  7. Demonstrated ability to think strategically and contribute to institutional planning and goal setting.
  8. Demonstrated project management experience.
  9. Experience evaluating and treating materials for digital imaging projects.
  10. Experience with exhibit preparation.
  11. Experience managing conservation technicians or students.
  12. Basic computer skills including word processing and use of spreadsheets.

Contact Information to Applicants

Tanay Adams

Additional Candidate Instruction

Candidates must submit a detailed letter of interest stating education, work history, and research interests; contact information for 3 references; 2–3 examples of treatment experience; and a writing sample-either published work or work-related documentation or research. Please use the “Additional Attachments” process to add your examples of treatment experience and writing samples. Each document has a 5MB limit. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Review of applications will begin September 17, 2018 and will continue until position is filled.

Categories: Job Postings