Julia M. Brennan will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Monday, May 3, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “From Trauma to Tenderness: Following a ‘Middle Path’ for Conservation Work at Memorial Sites.”

Brennan said of her work, “Multi-year projects to conserve the clothing of genocide victims in Rwanda and Cambodia tapped into my twenty-year history of grassroots and localized site work, tested my professional capabilities, as well as my role as an outside specialist. Preserving materials that embody the traumatic experiences of individual victims heightens the emotional, cultural, and preservation challenges of our profession. It reminds us that conservation is first and foremost about people. As such, we are called to safeguard material culture that memorializes the victims of atrocities, to honor and embrace the shared humanity that is at the heart of our work. This ‘middle path’ represents a difficult confluence of technical objectivity and personal subjectivity. For me it requires that I see multiple sides or opinions, acknowledge that I may not have the answers, and have empathy for colleagues and history.

“Textiles, like a second skin, can in their simplicity and commonality give human specificity to the violent stories. The power of the brutalized textiles we handled and the memorial spaces themselves shaped and guided the working relationships and protocols that emerged. In close collaboration with stakeholders and survivors, we confirmed that the fundamental approach and treatment decisions respect each artifact, the memory of each individual, the history of the site, and the historical event. Furthermore, the unique craftwork of conservation, with its hands-on sharing of methods and culture of fellowship, became and remains a meaningful and reverent act. Using several case studies to illustrate how flexibility and resulting protocols supported the ‘middle path,’ we affirm that conservation is humanitarian work, bringing something back to life, from trauma to tenderness.”

Julia M. Brennan, Caring for Textiles, has worked in the field of textile conservation since 1985. She is committed to conservation education and the care of cultural property. Since 2000, she has facilitated multiple conservation workshops and long-term projects in Bhutan, Madagascar, Algeria, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Taiwan, and Thailand. Since 2015, she has collaborated with partners in Cambodia and Rwanda to care for the clothing in genocide memorials, developing site-specific protocols for extremely degraded materials, deeply infused with emotion and memories. She received a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a master’s degree in art crime from the Association for Research in Crimes Against Art, 2010. She is based in Washington, DC.

This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.