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An interview with Anita Dey, HBCU Photographic Preservation Project Pre-Program Conservation Intern

    • Anita Dey Summer 2013 HBCU Intern

This summer, CCAHA welcomes pre-program conservation intern Anita Dey to the lab.  Her eight-week internship is sponsored by the Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Photographic Preservation Project, which aims to improve preservation of significant photographic collections held in HBCUs and provide training to staff, students, and volunteers.

Dey worked in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) library’s special collections department until she graduated last December.  Two weeks into her internship here, she sat down to answer some questions.

How were you involved in the HBCU Photographic Preservation Project when you were in college?

I completed an internship at Bowie State University last summer through the project.  We mostly did rehousing of their photo archives—there was a huge box of photos, and no one had ever sorted through them before.  We had to go through them before any conservation treatment could be done.  We did send a couple of panoramas to CCAHA for treatment.

What was your favorite photograph there?

Bowie State has tons of photographs, many of famous people.  I was sorting through the box, and there was one of Maya Angelou that stood out to me.  She was giving a commencement speech and she just looked really happy to be there.

Did you continue to work with photographic collections at UMBC?

UMBC doesn’t have a conservation lab, but I did some preservation work in their special collections department.  I worked with their collection of Lewis Hine photographs and rehoused books and other objects.

How did you become interested in conservation?

I started out in biology and did a lot of work in DNA labs.  I’d always had an inclination toward art, but I hadn’t yet found a happy medium between science and art .  Then I did a lot of research, because my mom said that if you’re passionate about something, you shouldn’t just let it go.  When I found out about conservation, I thought, “This is totally me.”

What have you learned so far at CCAHA?

I can’t even name all the things I’m learning because it’s such a long list!  Before this, I worked at the Library of Congress, and that was with books.  Now I get to work with so many different types of objects—paper, photographs, and books.  Everything I’m learning will help me in the graduate school application process, in graduate school, and in my future career.

So you plan to pursue a career in conservation?

Most definitely.  Applications to conservation programs are due in January, and you need a certain number of pre-program hours to apply, so I’m trying to fit in all of those.  I have the science background, but not too much of the formal training in art, so I’m taking art classes now.  My first was a drawing class, and it was one of the scariest classes I’ve ever taken!  I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared for a science class.  It was fun, though.

The HBCU Photographic Preservation Project is funded by a $1.4 million grant to LYRASIS from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is a joint effort by CCAHA, LYRASIS, the HBCU Library Alliance, the University of Delaware Art Conservation Department, and the Image Permanence Institute.

Image: Dey (center) assists conservators Rachel Wetzel (left) and Jessica Keister with a lining.