Natasha Trenear
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Natasha Trenear

Dame Joan Sutherland Fund recipient, Curator 
Origin: Australia
Currently based: Australia
Natasha Trenear is an Australian art conservator currently pursuing a conservation fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution Anthropology Conservation Laboratory (ACL) in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. At the ACL, Natasha is applying her interest in engaging with source communities to the conservation of a historic bark cloth collection, a Pacific art form found in many major Australian museum and art gallery collections. In July 2013, the ACL hosted Community Scholars from American Samoa, the Cook Islands and Fiji, as a part of the conservation treatment. This month-long consultation exposed Natasha to the ethics, practicalities and benefits of engaging with source community members and will continue to shape how she approaches her treatments of objects from the collection. Natasha has also worked with collections at Heritage Victoria, Museum Victoria, the University of Melbourne Archives and the Western Australian Museum and has managed cultural community development projects in East Timor and Central Australia
Who are you as an artist?
I am an Australian trained art conservator, with an interest in the conservation of anthropology collections.
What prompted you to come to the US?
The opportunity to expand my skill set as an emerging conservator in the world's largest museum and research complex.
What did your course/project involve?
Treating 19th century Pacific textiles, referred to as tapa, under the supervision of four senior conservators.

What were the highlights of your experience?
Simply being trained and supervised by four amazing conservators for seven months. I was very lucky to have such a great team of mentors to learn from. Also, the tapa project included a community consultation component, which resulted in Community Scholars from American Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Fiji, being hosted by the ACL for a month. The consultation allowed for ideas and knowledge of how tapa is and was made to be exchanged, and included being taught how to make tapa. I also enjoyed being able to collaborate with the Community Scholars, conservators, and conservation scientists, to investigate 19th century tapa materials and techniques.
Where did you find inspiration? 
From the great team of people I was lucky enough to work with.
What will you take away from this experience?
My skills and application of conservation greatly improved over my seven month fellowship.
What is your favorite piece of work that resulted from this experience?
The final tapa I treated was the most challenging as it was very fragile, would tear easily upon handling and was several meters long. It was however so satisfying to be towards the end of my fellowship and to have a reached a level where I felt comfortable treating such textiles.
What are you currently working on?
I am now working as an Assistant Curator in my hometown, where I am currently applying my conservation skills to re-housing a collection of 10,000 objects.
What is your vision for the future?
In the future, I would like to continue to be involved in projects that work with source communities, conservators, and scientists, to investigate the materials and techniques used to create traditional objects.
What advice would you give other artists aspiring to come to the US?
Strive to spend time working on a project that will develop skills that are valued back home.
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