Jessica Walthew will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, November 2, at 12 pm. Her talk is entitled “Issues of Conservation and Display in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Northwest Coast Indians.”

The American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Northwest Coast Indians opened in 1900, and is one of the oldest and most iconic displays in the museum. The hall houses collections from multiple cultural groups collected by anthropologists during the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897–1902) led by Franz Boas. In this talk, Walthew will review the history of the hall and discuss past conservation initiatives to study and conserve parts of the Northwest Coast collection. This background will inform a discussion of the current project’s investigation into the manufacture and history of painted wood sculptures and totem poles in the hall.


Jessica Walthew is the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Cultures of Conservation at Bard Graduate Center where she is working on a joint project with the American Museum of Natural History. The project is focused on their Northwest Coast collection and explores issues related to material technology and conservation, particularly of the museum’s totem pole collection. She has worked in the conservation departments of the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Penn Museum. In 2015–2016 she was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she researched the intersection of textiles and objects conservation practices in the Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Her research interests include theory and practice in archaeological and ethnographic conservation, best practices in documentation, and technical research in art history and archaeology. She serves on the American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) Emerging Professionals in Conservation Network committee as a Professional Education and Training Officer. She received her BA from Williams College and her MA from The Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.



This event is part of our “Cultures of Conservation” initiative, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.