S8, E2: Casey Mallinckrodt on the ethics of conservation
June 29, 2020
If there is one thing you should know about Casey, it’s that her feelings about art conservation run deep. She is the Objects Conservator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT, where she oversees a highly diverse collection. She is well aware of the fact that, whenever a piece is treated upon arrival at a museum, it is potentially put at risk. She is fully committed to conserving the full history of the items under her watch.
Casey’s goal is not only to preserve the object’s identity, but also to respect the voice of the community of origin. This was the case as she worked on various projects involving African art and Native American pottery. However, taking the ethical path has not always been simple, given that some values and belief systems have shifted over the past centuries in some of the cultures Casey has worked with. In some cases, even the local people are reluctant to speak about their own history.
This is probably something we can relate to today, especially since the murder of George Floyd. We might feel ashamed about certain episodes of our history and, therefore, we may be inclined to gloss over various events. However, Casey’s interview shows us the importance of preserving our past, in order to understand our present and move into a wiser future.
“We don’t want to remove, we don’t want to reinterpret. We want to preserve what’s there.” (Casey, 35:42)
To find out more about Casey’s work and her unique point of view, you can listen to the full interview below. You can also check out her website at www.caseymallinckrodt.com. We are sure you won’t be disappointed!
Casey Mallinckrodt is the Objects Conservator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, where she oversees a highly diverse collection. The Wadsworth is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. She has a master’s degree from the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. Her primary interest is the stewardship of material cultural heritage and the integration of specific and refined knowledge about the materials with cultural history and practice.