Art, Science, Invention: Conservation and the Peale-Sellers Family

Renée Wolcott

American Philosophical Society

Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 5:30pm

Benjamin Franklin Hall
427 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Free and open to the public, please rsvp to attend.

Join us for the launch of the new book from the APS Press, Art, Science, Invention: Conservation and the Peale-Sellers Family. 
As the owner of the nation’s first successful natural history museum, Charles Willson Peale served as both curator and conservator, concerned with selecting specimens for exhibition and preserving them for future museum visitors. He was also his own archivist, saving letters, diaries, and museum records that passed through his family for generations before becoming enshrined in the American Philosophical Library. The resulting Peale-Sellers Family Collection is the world's largest collection of materials related to Charles Willson Peale and his many relations, and served as the basis for two APS exhibitions in 2017: the Museum's Curious Revolutionaries: The Peales of Philadelphia and the Library's Conservation and the Peale-Sellers Family Collection. In preparation for these exhibits, the current APS conservation staff repaired 53 of the 75 Library items selected for display in the Museum, and 14 of 43 items selected for display in the Library. In this talk, APS Conservator Renée Wolcott, who curated the Library's exhibition, will discuss her new Transactions volume, Art, Science, Invention: Conservation and the Peale-Sellers Family. Her talk will draw links between Charles Willson Peale's interests and those of today's art conservators, and trace the history of conservation efforts in the United States and at the APS in particular. Wolcott will also share several conservation case studies from the two Peale exhibitions, including the treatment of a Charles Willson Peale diary, two books of hand-cut silhouettes, a hand-colored form letter soliciting donations for the Philadelphia Museum, and Rembrandt Peale's pamphlet describing the skeleton of the mammoth. The repaired books and documents will be on display.
Renée Wolcott is Associate Conservator of Library and Archival Materials at the American Philosophical Society Library, where she curated Conservation and the Peale-Sellers Family Collection. A high school interest survey listed “book restorer” as the top match for her skills and interests. After disregarding this advice for many years—during which she worked as a journalist, editor, and public relations specialist—Wolcott changed careers and entered the conservation field. Prior to joining the APS, she worked as a book conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia and served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware. She received an M.S. in Art Conservation from the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in 2011, an M.A. in English from N.C. State University in 1999, and a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995.