Susan Jones, November 19, 2014

Title

Susan Jones, November 19, 2014

Subject

C.R. Jones
Conservation
Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP)
NYSHA

Description

Susan Jones is a Cooperstown Graduate Program alumna from 1968. She is originally from North Adams, Massachusetts. She graduated from Williamstown College with a degree in occupational therapy and attended Kansas State University’s art history program before transferring to the Cooperstown Graduate program. After graduating she became director of the Oneida Historical Society in Utica, New York. She kept the position until she met and married her husband C.R. Jones, a fellow alumnus. They live in nearby Roseboom, New York. Mr. Jones worked for the New York State Historical Association as a conservator. Mrs. Jones obtained a second master’s in textile and object conservation from the Fashion Institute of Technology in order to start a conservation business in Cooperstown.
Mrs. Jones attended the Cooperstown Graduate Program a few years after it was founded. During its first few decades, the curriculum at Cooperstown changed drastically, the conservation program was newly added, and the folklore program discontinued. Mr. Jones is a member of CGP’s first graduating class. Both Mr. and Mrs. Jones took their degrees in History Museum Studies. Later, Mr. C.R. Jones worked at the Fenimore House when the founder of the Cooperstown Graduate Program Louis C. Jones retired and Peter Welsh from the Smithsonian became director.
The conversation with Mrs. Jones ranged from industry in her hometown of North Adams, Massachusetts to her time at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Later, she provides a detailed an interesting description of the changes in the conservation field since she opened her business. We met in the studio on 14 Eagle Street, Cooperstown. The hum heard in the background of the recording is the heater.

Creator

Kimberly Rose

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2014-11-19

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.8 MB
audio/mpeg
17.8 MB
image/jpeg
3000 x 4000 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

14-025

Coverage

North Adams, MA
1945- 2014
Cooperstown, NY

Interviewer

Kimberly Rose

Interviewee

Susan Johnes

Location

17 Eagle Street
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

SJ = Susan Jones
KR= Kimberly Rose

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

KR:
It is the 19th of November and this is the interview of Susan Jones by Kimberly Rose for CGP Community Stories, which is sponsored by the Cooperstown Graduate Program and the New York State Historical Association. We are interviewing at 17 Eagle Street in Cooperstown.
KR:
Mrs. Jones, I wanted to start off asking you about where you grew up. You were from North Adams. I was wondering what it was like growing up there?
SJ:
North Adams is a small city that was founded on the textile milling. There were a number of large mill complexes built there during the 19th century. The earliest one still stands outside of town. A lot of workers came in from Europe to work in the textile mills. As a consequence, North Adams had several Catholic churches to serve the Italians, and the French, and the Germans, and the Irish that all came in to work in the textile mills. The mills were not all in operation when I was growing up. Some of the work had been transferred to the southern states, so some of the mills at that time were not in operation, but some of them were. There was still engraving and printing, spinning, weaving and dying, and a number of those operations still going on. Although they were transitioning at that point into other activities such as electronics: making parts for radios, televisions. My father worked for Sprague Electric. He worked there for more than thirty years as a product engineer in charge of dry electrolytic capacitors. They were making parts for radios and televisions. During the Second World War, they made gas masks, and after the war ended they started making parts for the space programs. My father was very proud of his part in the space program; he would tell people that he had parts that were on the moon.
KR:
Sounded like they had a lot of diverse things they were doing there at Sprague.
SJ:
Yes. They were trying to accommodate the needs of the times. Things were changing from textiles to other things, and eventually both the textiles and electronics went elsewhere.
KR:
What sort of leisure activities did you do with your family growing up in North Adams?
SJ:
In the summertime we went swimming; there are a number of lakes in the area. My dad was very fond of sailboats. He built a small sailboat out of a kit. It was a Chris Craft Kit. He put it together when I was probably eight or nine, and we used to take that sailboat to Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield and sail in the summertime. In the wintertime we did skating and skiing. There was a downhill ski area, actually there were two of them, just outside of town. North Adams is in the corner of Massachusetts with New York on the western border and Vermont on the Northern border. So, we could go just about fifteen miles to the north and we were in Vermont; there was a small sky resort called Dutch Hill that I would ski on when I was between thirteen and eighteen.
KR:
Lots of things close by to visit. What sort of vacations did you go to? Was it the more local things or did you travel further?
SJ:
Most of our vacation time was spent on Cape Cod. My parents would rent a cottage, usually for a week or two. I think my dad had two weeks of vacation. It was a long drive, because we were at the farthest western point of Mass. It was a long drive to get to Cape Cod and we often went to more than one village in Cape Cod. The first one we went to was called Warehem, we went to Chatham later on, moving a little farther out along the cape. At that time, Cape Cod didn’t have the activity that it has today. There is a great deal of tourist activity there now, but there was less at the time. My dad would put his little sailboat on a trailer behind the car. It was close to a five hour trip depending upon the traffic. The Massachusetts Turnpike didn't exist at the time, so it was all two lane roads basically. It wasn’t big highways to get out to Cape Cod. That's what we did in the summer for summer vacation. There were a couple of other occasions. There was one trip my mother planned for the New York Finger Lakes and we went through the Finger Lake region one summer. A lot of our summer vacations were spent on Cape Cod, collecting shells, swimming, digging clams, and sailing, lots of sailing.
KR:
Sounds lovely.
SJ:
It was good, it was very good.
KR:
What made you decide to study art history at Kansas University?
SJ:
Well, in my last semester of college, I had two elective slots open. I didn't really know what to do with them, but a friend of mine said, "I'm going to take a course in music history and a course in art history." And I thought that sounds interesting, I'll do that too. So I took the very first course I'd ever taken in art history my last semester at college. I also, at that point, had decided that I probably wasn’t going to use the major that I had taken, which was occupational therapy, because I really didn’t like hospitals. I found a testing service that did differential aptitude testing. They did a whole range of tests and their advice to me was find a museum with a music program so that you have both artwork and music going on. So from that point, I decided to find a school that offered a good art history program, and the program at Kansas State University was affiliated with the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas City. It was a good program, so I went to Kansas for their art history program.
KR:
You ended up transferring to Cooperstown Graduate Program?
SJ:
I spent three semesters at Kansas taking art history classes. They did not offer a master’s in museum studies, and I already had a bachelor’s, so I was looking for as master’s program. That’s why I came to Cooperstown, for a master’s with a museum orientation.
KR:
How did you utilize your art background when you came to CGP?
SJ:
Whenever there was a research project assigned, I did some of my research projects in architectural history and some in art history. I did one paper on Ami Philips, a folk painter, who worked in the New Paltz area and the central New York area. My thesis was done on an architectural project. I chose a group of 19th-century buildings in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which is only about fifteen, twenty minutes away from North Adams. I researched how the local builders might have been influenced by the design books that were available to them at the time. So, in every way that I could, I belonged for a while to the Society of Architectural Historians. When I got to the end of my course work, I looked for a job in a museum and took a job as director of the Oneida Historical Society in Utica because that gave me the opportunity to work in the building next to Munson Williams Proctor, and in the future, possibly transfer to some job at [the] Munson Williams Proctor [Arts Institute].
KR:
What sort of collections did the Oneida Historical Society have?
SJ:
The Oneida Historical Society Collections were in Fountain Elms, which is an Italianate house next to Munson Williams Proctor. There were two Italianate houses on that property, [owned by] the sisters whose fortune eventually became the foundation of Munson Williams Proctor. One of them was taken down to put up the Philip Johnson Building that was used for the museum, but the one remaining building became the Oneida Historical Society. There was a collection of period rooms in the mid-nineteenth-century high Victorian style, and there were also collections of local history materials.
KR:
For the Utica area?
SJ:
For the Utica, Oneida county area.
KR:
What was it about Munson Williams Proctor that really appealed to you?
SJ:
It gave me the opportunity to work in a setting where there was more than just a historical museum, and the collection at Munson Williams Proctor included some major works of European art, still does include: Thomas Cole's work and major work by European artists. They do exhibitions that are material from major museums. They also have in addition to the house with period rooms, and the modern art museum, they have an art school. You can take classes in metalworking and ceramics and various things. They have expanded that art school since I left, to affiliate with one of the art schools in New York City, I thinks it's the Pratt. Well, it's either Parsons or the Pratt. And they offer a degree from that.
KR:
What was it that you did at the Oneida Historical Society that you wanted to do at Munson Williams Proctor?
SJ:
We had an exhibition space in the Fountain Elms as well as the period rooms. The first floor was period rooms and the second floor there was an exhibition space. During the time I was there, I was in charge of an exhibition of Frederick Spencer's portraits, he's a New York state portrait painter, a trained artist. Had I stayed there longer there would have been other opportunities to work with paintings and art materials.
KR:
Getting married changed your career plans?
SJ:
I moved back to Cooperstown and C.R. [Jones] had purchased an old 1830 house in Middlefield, and I spent the first two years back here working on the house, because the house needed a lot of renovation. Then we started raising children together and we raised three children and when my daughter went to kindergarten I took a second master’s degree in New York City in art conservation, so that I could start a business here in Cooperstown and not have to commute to Albany or some other city for a job.
KR:
You decided to get the degree in New York City rather than from [the Cooperstown Graduate Program]. Was CGP's conservation program still [there]?
SJ:
I took the degree in textile and object conservation, which wasn’t offered at CGP. It was offered at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
KR:
What was your experience like living in [the] Cooperstown area and going to school in the city?
SJ:
Oh, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. [Laughs] If I had planned better, I suppose I would have taken the conservation program here when it started. Because at that point, Caroline Keck would allow people with interest in textiles, at the very beginning she would allow them to take the program, but later on she felt that they should concentrate on paintings, objects, and paper. After the first couple of years they didn’t take people who were interested in other areas.
KR:
What year was the conversation part established? Was it the same as the rest of the program?
SJ:
No, the museum program was established in '67. No. I came in '67. It was established in '64, and as far as I can recall, the conservation program was started in '69 or '70. It was somewhere in that area that they added [it]. Because it was Louis Jones that started the museum program and it was Sheldon and Caroline Keck who had been working for the Brooklyn Museum, who decided they wanted to come to Cooperstown. I think they had taught classes in the Seminars for American Culture prior to that and had therefore made contact with Louis Jones and proposed that there be a conservation program. By the time that they started that conservation program, Louis Jones was very close to retirement and Peter Welsh from the Smithsonian took over about the time the conservation program was started. They shared the Biological Field Station Building at that point with the SUNY [Oneonta] biological program, until they managed to get space from Buffalo State and move it to Buffalo.
KR:
Do you know what motivated them to move to buffalo?
SJ:
They would have more space in Buffalo. Other than more space, maybe better space. I don’t know for sure. I know that they went to Buffalo because they felt that it would be better for the program.
KR:
The building was much smaller back then too.
SJ:
Yes, the building has been added on to and improved since they left and the graduate program for museum studies took the space. When I was a student and when C.R. was a student in the graduate program, they weren't using that for the museum program, they were using the White House and the Library. And when I arrived in '67 the library that exists today hadn’t been built yet. The library existed in the top floor of Fenimore House. That's where our library was in the beginning of our studies here at the museum program. And obviously that wasn't enough space for the library, so they managed to build a new library to accommodate the collections.
KR:
With the space for the students too?
SJ:
You have a classroom on the second floor, you use that don't you? On the second floor? You don’t use that anymore, because you don’t need it with the new space across the way. Yeah, there was a classroom on the second floor of the library that was used after the library came into being, but before that, we used the classroom space in the White House.
KR:
How many students were in your program, in the other programs, when you were there?
SJ:
I don’t remember. Fifteen to twenty, something like that. At that time, you had a choice of museum studies or folklore, and the folklore program I think lasted eight years. And they decided that there wasn’t enough interest in it, they were not getting enough applications and there was another folklore program in Pennsylvania. So they discontinued the folklore program.
KR:
How did people feel about that?
SJ:
Well, it depended upon what your interests were, whether or not you wanted to be collecting stories and songs and things like that, or preferred to work in a museum setting. I guess some people did both. But many of our graduates went into history museums. Not many went into art museums. Of course, now the graduate program has expanded to include to science museums, which is a good direction to go in, I think.
KR:
You said that your husband was a graduate of CGP, you didn’t meet him while you were at CGP?
SJ:
No. He was in the first class. He went from Cooperstown to Concord, Massachusetts where he was director of the Concord Antiquarian Museum for three years. At that point, Louis Jones was expanding the curatorial staff and invited him to come back as a curator. Which is what he did. I was working in Utica and I had a friend, a classmate who was working with C.R. and she decided we were going to go to the Christmas party together.
KR:
The NYSHA Christmas party?
SJ:
The NYSHA Christmas party.
KR:
That's how you first met. Could you tell me about your children?
SJ:
We have two boys and a girl. The oldest is Gram. Gram graduated from Morrisville College with a degree in automotive service and he went to Oswego for vocational education. He taught at the Milford BOCES in the building program for a few years, and then he went to the automotive service program in Albany. In the Albany Technical High School for several years. Then he was hired by Morrisville College to work teaching automotive service for them, for their students. Our second son Perry graduated from Morrisville College as well. Morrisville is a two- year SUNY College; it does offer some four-year degrees, but most of the degrees they offer are two-year degrees. He transferred to SUNY IT and took majors in electronics and computer programming. He worked with a couple of firms that were producing software in the Utica area. Then he went to Rensselear Polytechnic Institute for a degree in business management, particularly businesses that were interested in computers. Now, for the last seven years he has worked for IBM in Maryland and in New York City. Our daughter Amanda. Gram and Amanda graduated from Cherry Valley High school because we are in the Cherry Valley district. We live about six miles from the Cooperstown schools and we are actually farther from the Cherry Valley schools, but we are in the Cherry Valley district. Amanda graduated from Cherry Valley and her first year after high school she spent in Rome studying Italian. Then, she went to SUNY New Paltz and graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a degree, a dual major in Spanish and art history. She worked for the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine, which is part of Bassett hospital. She worked for them as a translator for their research projects for three years, then went to Syracuse University and took a master’s degree in architecture. Currently, she works for a firm north of Albany called Kelly Brothers. She does project management for large architectural projects installing doors and windows and hardware in large buildings. So Amanda lives south of Albany, Perry splits his time between New York City and Cooperstown, and Gram lives in Middlefield, currently.
KR:
Still rather local. Do you get to see them often?
SJ:
Having grown up in the country, they all seem to prefer to live in [the country]
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
at least Perry lives part time, and the others prefer to live in the country rather than in an urban area. So we do get to see our children fairly regularly. And our two granddaughters.
KR:
As children did you take them to see a lot of museums?
SJ:
Oh, we took them to a lot of museums. [Laughs] We took them to so many museums that they began to object to going to museums. Yes, every vacation we spent some time in museums. Whether it was a major museum in a major city, or just a historic house. And then as they got older they began to express their preference for certain types of museums according to what their developing interests were. On a trip to Florida, Perry requested to go to see the Salvador Dali museum, so we went to see the Salvador Dali Museum. His sister at the time was about eight or nine years old and she didn’t want to go to the Salvador Dali museum, but there were plenty of other museums she was interested in. With Gram he was more interested in museums that had cars, and motorcycles, and anything with wheels. There were a lot of museums. We still go to a lot of museums when we go on trips and make it a point of looking up exhibits and going to [them] if they are advertised in the [New York] Times or something like that. Going to the city or going to Washington, D.C. to see exhibits that we’re interested in.
KR:
What sort of exhibits catch your eye?
SJ:
Well, I'm interested in going to the Matisse exhibit that I understand is in the Museum of Modern Art right now. There is another exhibit on mourning costumes, costumes for those who had lost someone, at the Metropolitan, and our granddaughter who probably doesn’t care anything about mourning costumes, but is very interested in going to the Metropolitan. We will find a way to take her to the Metropolitan Museum in the city and on our agenda is also to take her to the Crayola Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania. We stopped there on the way back from a trip to Philadelphia. We stopped there to see what it was like -- I take it you've been there, yeah-- [laughs] and so I thought it would be something she would like because she has told us since she was five that she was going to be an art teacher.
KR:
So art runs in the family?
SJ:
I guess. Yes.
KR:
To change tracks a little bit, you decided to form your own business, so you didn’t have to commute. How did you decide to choose a conservation business?
SJ:
Well, when C.R. came to the Fenimore House he started as a curator and Peter Welsh became the director. Peter Welsh decided that he wanted a conservator on the staff, so he sent C.R. to the conservation program that had just recently started in the Biological Field Station building. C.R. took that program and came back to the museum as their full-time staff conservator, and part of their agreement was that he would be allowed to use the museum facilities to do private work, and it appeared that there was a lot of private work coming in that he really didn’t have time to do. It had to be done on evenings and weekends, and there were other things that he needed to do on evenings and weekends. So I was interested in conservation, and I thought perhaps there would be an opportunity to start a business in that area. It turns out that if you are in a rural area, you either have to have projects shipped in from other areas or you have to be very versatile and try to do a wide range of projects. Right now, I have done this now for about thirty years. I started doing quilts: cleaning quilts, repairing quilts, mounting samplers, and other textiles that people were interested in hanging on their walls. Working on things like three-dimensional objects: glass, ceramics, sometimes things like globes, and then actually the greatest number of projects that came in usually were paintings. So still, I do a variety of projects, a lot of them are paintings. [Coughs]
KR:
What areas do the paintings come from?
SJ:
Paintings come from individuals who have inherited them. They come from art dealers who want to resell them. They come from collectors who go out looking for things to decorate their homes with. Projects also come from small historical societies in this area and occasionally from larger museums. We've had a few projects from Munson Williams Proctor; we've had a whole range of requests whether it’s institutions or individuals.
KR:
The other projects that you work on, are they fairly local or do they come from a broader [area]?
SJ:
I would say that the majority of projects probably have come from within a hundred miles, but a few have come from outside that area. I think I mentioned to you, we did two sets of murals in Cooperstown, Agnes Tate murals from the late 1920s that both had damage to them. They were cleaned, repaired, and then painted and varnished for a house called Heathcote on Estli Avenue and a house on the corner of Lake [Street] and Chestnut [Street], a stone house built for Edward Clark originally.
KR:
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve completed?
SJ:
Well, I did enjoy doing the murals. It was a big project that was quite satisfying to restore the two mural projects. About a year ago, I did a large painting of Saint Jerome that was brought in to me with tears down the center of it, and when you get a painting that comes in very damaged it means that you take it apart and put it on a hot table and put a lining behind it. If you can transform a project from looking like something that nobody could possibly hang on their wall to something that they would like to hang on their wall, that can be a satisfying experience. We've had some of those that we refer to as the basket cases that come in looking like they couldn’t possibly be saved and if you can get them back to where they are -- and it isn’t possible in every single case -- but if you can return them to a state where someone can enjoy them, that can be very satisfying.
KR:
How has conservation changed since you started your business?
SJ:
Before I started in conservation, most conservators were trained by apprenticing to another conservator, and that began to change. Well, the Kecks were among those who began to change that, because they wanted to see conservators in a formal training setting where they would get exposed to more than one conservator and they would have basics in chemistry and exposure to many different museum settings and different practitioners of conservation. That was a transitional phase when I came in. People were still apprenticing and I think they still are in Europe and some other places. There was that transition between apprentice and master’s degree programs at that point. And from that point there were some big museums, like the Getty in California, like the Metropolitan, like the Smithsonian, that began to employ full-time conservation staffs and provide them with their own space and their own equipment. From that point, conservation began to turn more and more toward scientific analysis, and the major museums began to employ not just those who were trained in hands-on work on paintings and objects, but people who could do the scientific analysis: chemists who were specializing in scientific analysis only for the conservators. Turning towards microscopes, and infrared, and x-rays and all of that was becoming more and more popular, scientific tools and the use of them in the conservation programs.
KR:
Has that impacted the way your business operates?
SJ:
It depends on the project really. If there are questions about the project, there have been occasions when we have sent out samples for analysis. The older material is, the more likely we might send out something for analysis. We use microscopes; we do use magnifiers. We use black lights, but we don’t have a highly technical laboratory. If we need further analysis, we would send something out.
KR:
So you've been in Cooperstown since you graduated from CGP and worked in Utica, how has living in rural upstate [New York] been?
SJ:
Well, living in any rural area limits your career opportunities. As I mentioned, rather than taking on a commute to Albany, or Utica, or Syracuse, or someplace like that, I decided to do the conservation business. We enjoy living in a rural area. We like to garden. We like to do things outside. Had we chosen to do something else we could have moved. C.R. grew up in a small town in Iowa, which is a heavily agricultural area. There were many farms producing corn and wheat, soybeans and pigs, pork and that sort of thing. His first degree in college was in botany and chemistry, a chemistry minor; he thought he was going to go into plant science and then discovered art history and decided he wanted to work in a museum. He prefers to live in a rural area too. Otherwise we would have moved somewhere else looking for other job opportunities.
KR:
Suits your lifestyles better?
SJ:
Yeah.
KR:
I don’t know that I have any more questions, I was wondering, is there anything else you would like to add?
SJ:
Not that I can think of at the moment.
KR:
I want to thank you for your time. Thank you for contributing to CGP Community Stories. Thank you.

Duration

30:00
19:34

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

SusanJones.JPG

Citation

Kimberly Rose, “Susan Jones, November 19, 2014,” CGP Community Stories, accessed January 26, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/208.