Conservation Specialist

Catharine Hawks behind and touching two open white drawers and three closed ones of mammal specimens.
Catharine Hawks with drawers of mammal specimens. Courtesy of James Di Loreto, NHB2011-00141

Cathy is an objects conservator specializing in the care of natural science collections and is Museum Conservator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She has over 20 years experience in the field and has worked with nearly 100 institutions in the US and abroad on issues relating to care of these collections. She teaches graduate courses in preventive conservation for George Washington University and is a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation and a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).

Cathy came into natural history conservation largely by accident. Carnegie Museum of Natural History had been hosting a sponsored conservation internship. The young conservator holding the position had successfully completed the Anthropology part of the program but after viewing the natural science collections that were the target of the second half, elected to find another career, leaving the Carnegie staff desperate for a replacement. Cathy’s interview for the position consisted of being sent to a prep lab, handed some lightly defrosted rodents, and being told to make them into study skins. The collection managers at the museum then challenged her to find ways to use traditional collections conservation knowledge to maintain specimens from across the natural sciences. She’s still working on that.