Vanessa Haight Smith is the Libraries book conservator for the Preservation Services department. She has held this position for two and a half years. Her conservation career began as an assistant paintings conservator; however, she developed a passion for books after being hired as a senior conservation technician for the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Princeton University Library in 1999.
Originally from Falmouth, MA, Smith received a B.A. in painting and art history from Washington College in Chestertown, Md. Upon graduation, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pa. Smith took further graduate studies abroad, earning a postgraduate diploma in Conservation of Library Materials from West Dean College in Chichester, England and an M.A. in Conservation Studies from the University of Sussex.
Smith’s book conservation work is pivotal to the Libraries. She treats and prepares special collections materials for exhibitions within the Libraries, for the Smithsonian Institution at large, and also for outside institutions. Smith is the registrar of loans for all materials borrowed from and loaned to the Libraries for exhibitions, sometimes hosting up to 20 loans at one time. Presently, Smith just completed work with the Smithsonian's Office of Exhibits Central in preparing Darwin’s Legacy, an exhibition case which opened at the National Museum of Natural History on September 10 and includes items from the Libraries' collections. In addition to these tasks, Smith supervises general collections care and commercial binding, overseeing the work of two library technicians and two volunteers. These units repair, sew, bind, and re-back library books and serials for all of the Libraries’ branches.
Smith is a new resident of Baltimore, Md., and looks forward to exploring the area. An artisan of many trades, she paints portraits and landscapes in her free time. Smith has crossed the Atlantic 42 times, and if quizzed, can name all the presidents of the United States.—Liz O'Brien
photo by Lu Rossignol