Conservation grad swaps snow for palm trees at the University of Miami

laura-fedynyszynLaura Fedynyszyn, Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management graduate (Class of 2013), swapped the cold Canadian weather for sunshine and palm trees in Miami, Florida this winter.

The Fleming College graduate is working at the University of Miami Libraries as the Andrew W. Mellon Conservation Fellow, where she performs conservation treatments on rare books and paper objects from the permanent collections on campus.

“I love the range of objects I get to work on. We have maps and manuscripts dating back to the 15th century but also a wealth of new materials, such as zines. Each pose their own preservation problem, so every day is something new,” said Laura, who creates a variety of mounts and supports for objects on display, and works with an installation team to set up the exhibits.

Laura’s previous experience includes conservation contracts at Library and Archives Canada, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and the John M. Kelly Library at the University of Toronto. She decided to move to Miami in November 2017 because of the amazing career opportunity the university presented.

“The other faculty I work with are knowledgeable and supportive. We have a new and wonderfully outfitted conservation lab with a lot of equipment I have never gotten to work with before, so it’s been a great learning experience,” said Laura. “Canada is home, but I must say it’s nice to skip winter!”

Laura credits her Fleming education for preparing her for the Fellowship at the University of Miami, especially the work completed during her final semester.

“That semester provided me with a solid foundation and gave me excellent exposure to the type of media I came to love working with the most,” said Laura, who explained that book and paper conservation was the area of focus during final semester of the Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program.

Laura came to Fleming College after earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking at OCAD University. She was attracted to Fleming’s graduate certificate because it offered experience working with a range of objects, such as metals, ethnographic objects, textiles, and paper.

“I was interested in learning about the collections management and preventive conservation side of things too, as I know conservators at many small institutions are often tasked with these facets of collections care as well,” said Laura. “The Fleming program provided a great balance of all the different aspects of conservation and collections care.”

Laura describes her Fleming College experience as “amazing” and keeps in touch with many of her classmates. She describes the courses as intense and well-structured, with lots of hands-on projects, and appreciates the wealth of knowledge her instructors brought to the classroom from their extensive work experience in the field.

Her advice to current students is to be willing to move for opportunity. “Being mobile and able to go where the work is helps a lot, especially when you are just starting out,” she said. “Be open to any and all contracts that are in the realm of conservation. For example, I took a two-week contract at Cambridge Galleries and was able to expand that into over a year of work conserving their permanent collection and planning for a new storage vault. You never know what great opportunity is just around the corner.”