Jessica Bekesi credits Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program for earning competitive internship placement

jessica-bekesi-headshotJessica Bekesi was ready to hit the ground running after graduating from the Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program in June 2017. The following month, Jessica started her position at Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre as Preventive Conservation Intern through Young Canada Works.

“The Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program was instrumental in my getting this internship. Without it, I wouldn’t have the education or experience to be equipped for this position,” said Jessica. “The Fleming program is highly respected in the field of conservation in Canada and I feel it definitely had an impact on my application. In fact, one of my co-workers at the Heritage Centre is a fellow Fleming graduate from the ‘sister program,’ Museum Management and Curatorship.”

As Preventive Conservation Intern, Jessica analyzes environmental and storage conditions, and conservation policies to recommend changes to improve artifact care; she is instituting new guidelines for conservation standards and a new condition reporting system; and she is reorganizing parts of the storage area, helping to introduce an integrated pest management system, re-houses artifacts, and creates new mounts and enclosures when needed.

“My career is set on the foundation of knowledge I gained at Fleming College”

“Almost all of the tools and skills I need and use on a daily basis at my internship I developed at Fleming College,” said Jessica. “I learnt proper artifact photography in my class Technology Applications, environmental monitoring and pest identification in Reducing Risks to Collections, specific artifact needs I learnt in abundance in the numerous History of Technology and Lab Techniques classes. […] My career is set on the foundation of knowledge I gained at Fleming College.”

jessica-at-workJessica decided to take Fleming’s Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program after earning her Bachelor’s degree in History and Art History (Honours) at Queen’s University. She wanted to gain hands-on experience in treating museum artifacts and Fleming College’s program seemed like the perfect fit for her goals.

“I loved my time at Fleming College,” said Jessica, who developed close relationships with her peers and professors due to the program’s small class size. “All of our teachers were so obviously passionate about their work and all had experience within the field– most of who are still actively working in museum conservation. Feeling how much the instructor’s cared about the class and the information was infectious and such a pleasure to be a part of.”

She added, “I was amazed at the equipment available to me in the labs and feel so lucky to have been able to learn with these tools.”

The Fleming College graduate said she would recommend this program to aspiring conservators because it helped her develop a deeper passion for her career. And for students currently in this program, she recommends networking, asking questions, and putting in as much time as possible into work and labs. She also recommends using the library, explaining, “the resources there are amazing and catered so well to this field like nowhere else I’ve seen. Conservation books can be few and far between and very expensive, so having the library was a huge asset.”

Collaboration is key for Conservation graduates

alison-and-priscilla-blogConservation is a collaborative effort for Conservator Alison Freake and Conservation Intern Priscilla Lo at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Both are graduates of Fleming College’s recently renamed Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program, which trains students in preserving various aspects of arts and heritage for future generations. Priscilla graduated in 2016 from the Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program and Alison finished what was then called Collections Conservation and Management in 2001.

“Fleming graduates have a solid understanding of the materials they are working with and an eagerness to learn as much as they can in order to do the best job,” said Alison, who is mentoring fellow Fleming grad Priscilla. “There is a willingness to take part in broader activities and an awareness of the importance of institutional workflow and how we, as conservators, are able to contribute in so many different areas.”

As a conservator, Alison is responsible for the physical condition of records held by the Provincial Archives of Alberta, which includes: manuscripts, bound volumes, photographic prints and negatives, maps, architectural renderings and other archival materials. She is involved with exhibit design and installation, site visits, preservation training, collection evaluations, and special events, and teaches workshops for the Archives Society of Alberta and various post-secondary institutions.

Alison said her Fleming education is relevant and helpful to her career, and its holistic approach to collections care has proven useful as her job duties have expanded. Her program internship also helped her gain real world experience that proved beneficial down the line.

“My internship project was the assessment of a parchment collection for the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (now The Rooms – Provincial Archives Division), which was very relevant to my position at the Archives,” she said.

Alison moved to Peterborough for her graduate certificate after completing a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her advice to current students is to be prepared to move around, get involved in the conservation community, and remember the importance of relationships.

“The Fleming conservation community is a very strong presence in our field, since there are graduates working in many heritage/memory institutions in various capacities. As a profession, it is important to have our members participate in a collegial manner, and the common educational background plays a substantial role in our community,” said Alison, who is the current President of the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property.

Alison enjoys welcoming recent graduates into the field through mentorship. She is currently mentoring 2015 graduate Priscilla Lo, who is interning at the Provincial Archives of Alberta through the Young Canada Works Post-Graduate Internship.

“Priscilla has been a great deal of fun to work with!” said Alison. “The Young Canada Works Post-Graduate Internship is meant to give a boost in practical application of skills in a larger institution and she has been doing a great job in the conservation lab. She seems to be enjoying her time here, so my goal is to make sure she gets what she needs from us, even while her work plays such an important role in our preservation program.”

Priscilla is responsible for treatment, collections care, and outreach projects such as repairing glass plate negatives, item-level collection assessment and treatment of paper-based records, as well as taking part in site visits and facility tours. Like Alison, Priscilla said her Fleming College education is useful in her job.

“In our course on paper objects, we had the chance to carry out treatments on a paper object of our choice. The practical skills I learned while doing this treatment gave me experience to work on treating paper objects at my current job,” she said.

Priscilla added that she still uses her class notes from school and encourages current students to take lots of photos and extensive notes while doing treatments. “You may use a technique or method later on in the future for a similar object,” she said. “Also, keep all your notes– the group notes compilation will help you greatly in the future!”

Priscilla is enjoying her internship experience thus far, especially being mentored by Alison.

“It’s encouraging because Alison is so good at what she does and she’s been at the Archives for so long,” said Priscilla. “She’s a great mentor and encourages discussion whenever possible. She’s genuinely interested in helping me strengthen my skills and my portfolio.”

Priscilla hopes to pay it forward one day and be a mentor herself to pass on her knowledge and skills to an emerging conservator.

Conservation students to honor college namesake in ‘Meet the Real Fleming’ exhibit

Fleming College namesake Sir Sandford Fleming is being honored during the 50th anniversary of the college. Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management students are curating the Meet the Real Fleming exhibit, which opens Saturday, April 1, 2017 during Fleming’s Spring Open House.

Sir Sandford Fleming
Sir Sandford Fleming

Sir Sandford Fleming was born in Kircaldy, Scotland in 1827 and moved to Peterborough, Ontario, Canada in 1845, where he drew and printed the first map of the city. Sir Sandford was an engineer and innovator. He designed Canada’s first postage stamp, the Three Penny Beaver; led plans for the Intercolonial Railway, was director of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and Chief Engineer of the Northern Railway; and invented Universal Standard Time, which was adopted worldwide in 1885.

In 1897, Sir Sandford was knighted by Queen Victoria for his accomplishments. The regalia he wore to the knighting are just some of the artifacts that will be displayed at the Meet the Real Fleming exhibit.

“We’re learning lots of personal stories about Sir Sandford that people may not know,” said Conservation student and Lead Project Manager Raene Poisson. “He saved a portrait of Queen Victoria from a burning building, which she mentioned at his knighting.”

Conservation student Raene Poisson
Conservation student Raene Poisson

Raene is excited for the exhibit and enthusiastically discusses the artifacts she and her classmates are working on in the Sutherland Campus Conservation Lab. In addition to his regalia, the exhibit will also display Sir Sandford’s brass rolling ruler, a ruler with visible (possibly Sir Sandford’s) prints on it, and a dress belonging to his wife (believed to be her wedding dress), among other items. These artifacts are normally on display at Hutchison House museum in Peterborough.

“The students are so enthusiastic about the topic and working with the personal effects of Fleming, the namesake of the college,” said Fleming Conservation program coordinator Gayle McIntyre. “The students have embraced the topic. It’s a complete synthesis of the curriculum; all of the courses come together. It shows teamwork and collaboration, time management, and research. The project is the perfect blend of art, science, engineering and creativity.’

gayle-and-katie
Gayle McIntyre and Katie McEvoy

‘Students are experiencing back of house museum functions – such as the planning and preparation of the artifacts, and text for the exhibit – through to the front of house museum functions, including exhibit installation and public engagement,” said Gayle. “This class is rich in positive energy and fresh ideas. Faculty are proud of their efforts!”

Raene agrees. “Everything we’re taught in the program is used in this project,” she said.

Her classmate, Katie McEvoy, is part of the Interpretive Planning Group that helps promote the upcoming exhibit. Katie manages the Sir Sandford Fleming Twitter account, tweeting first-person as Sir Sandford to help others learn about him. Her team also chatted with Trent radio, held a bake sale, and made a Sir Sandford Selfie cutout for students to take cellphone pictures with.

“At the exhibit opening, I’m most excited to get feedback on our work,” said Katie, who will organize Sir Sandford-themed activities for children to enjoy at the April 1st event. “It’s our first time doing an exhibit start to finish, so receiving feedback from students and staff to see how we did will help us measure our success.”

The students have also been fundraising for the exhibit. On February 22, they hosted a bake sale in the Sutherland Campus main foyer to raise money and awareness of it.

Sutherland Campus Bake Sale
Sutherland Campus Bake Sale

One of the project managers at the bake sale was Lindsay Sisson, who said she hopes students will feel connected with Sir Sandford at the exhibit. “We’re hoping to connect with the student population by sharing what Sir Sandford was doing at our age and lesser known facts about him,” she said.

One Sir Sandford story the Conservation students adore is how Sir Sandford fell in love with his wife, Ann Jane (“Jeanie”).

“He was riding a horse-and-carriage with Jeanie when they crashed into a tree,” said Lindsay at the bake sale. “That crash was when Sir Sandford fell in love with her and they later married. Sir Sandford also used the tree stump to make a family picture frame.”

Weeks later in the Conservation Lab, Lindsay’s classmate Raene shares the same story as being her favourite Fleming fact. “The more I research about him, the more I fall in love,” says Raene. “I just love the story of how he fell in love with his wife!”

The students hope guests at the Meet the Real Fleming exhibit will feel the same.

Erika Range said Fleming gave her the hands-on experience she needed

Eerika rangerika Range is currently working as the Collections Manager Assistant at the Geological Survey of Canada, completed her Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management (CHCM) program internship at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and graduated from Fleming College this year. Below is her Fleming story:

After earning her Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from Trent University in 2008 and her Master’s Degree in Principles of Conservation from the University College London, UK, in 2010, Erika decided to attend Fleming for hands-on experience. “I was unable to get the jobs I wanted in conservation because my other degrees didn’t give me hands-on experience treating artifacts. I found myself in positions where employers wanted a portfolio of my work, but I didn’t have one,” said Erika. “I had a few friends that had done the program before me, and I had even seen a few jobs that specified the CHCM program as a desirable qualification.”

Erika said she loved her time at Fleming and appreciated the faculty, who are knowledgeable and care about the success of their students. “Out of all my education, Fleming prepared me the most for the workforce, giving me hands-on work experience in the community, helped me build a portfolio, and taught us about the conservation field and museums. I loved the small class sizes; it allowed for more time to dive into topics and gave more one-on-one time with the faculty.”

She completed her program internship at the Canadian Museum of Nature, which helped prepare Erika for her position at the Geological Survey of Canada as they have similar conventions for collections care and management. “The research project I produced during my internship was received very highly by the museum and I will even be presenting a part of it at an upcoming conference,” said Erika. “All around the internship was amazing and I know will be a very valuable experience as I begin my career.”

Now on contract at the Geological Survey of Canada, Erika is responsible for cleaning and organizing the National Plant Type Fossil Collection. “I feel very confident in the skills I learned at Fleming and they are all very transferable to this job,” she said. “On top of all the hard skills I learned at Fleming, which make the practical aspects of the job much easier, Fleming helped prepare me for a professional career by helping with resume prep, interview coaching, cover letter writing, and – since the faculty have such a great finger on the pulse of the conservation field – they were able to give a good idea of what would be expected of us in the workplace.”

Erika added, “My B.Sc and Master’s provided me with background knowledge, theory, and research skills, but Fleming gave me the hands-on practical, job-ready tools that I was lacking.”