Brandon’s Adventures

This blog primarily focuses on my activities as a grad student, but I’m not the only one who’s enjoying new opportunities here in Williamsburg. My partner, Brandon, has also been up to some exciting things, so today I’d like to spotlight them.

Out at the City of Rocks in New Mexico

Brandon and I met at the Roswell Museum. Originally from Florida and Mississippi, Brandon majored in history at FSU. He moved to Roswell to be closer to his parents, although they ultimately moved back to Florida. Initially a security guard, Brandon later became the museum’s preparator.

In the museum field, preparators are the ones who actually handle the artworks, whether it’s moving them, getting them ready for exhibition, or installing them. Preparators also get the gallery spaces ready for exhibitions, from repairing walls to repainting. When it comes to installations, they not only hang the works, but have to do the calculations needed to make sure everything is spaced correctly, and adjust the lights to make the pieces all look good. In essence, the preparators require skills in crafts such as framing, carpentry, painting, theatrical lighting, as well as mathematics, all while having the ability to think quickly and adapt to different situations. The preparator position one of the more demanding jobs in the museum field, but being mostly behind the scenes, it doesn’t get the same kind of attention that curatorships do. Any curator worth her salt, however, knows that preparators are the ones who make the exhibition magic happen, because they’re the ones who get the works ready and into place.

Matting works on paper is a time-consuming task requiring lots of skill and patience.

At Roswell, Brandon would do everything from re-mat and frame works on paper, transport artworks for conservation, hang paintings, prep galleries, and more. For one exhibition, Peter Hurd on Paper, he had to mat or re-mat more than thirty watercolor sketches and paintings, a tedious job requiring skill and patience. In one of his more unusual jobs, he built a custom support structure for one of the museum’s tin chandeliers so that it could handle the drive up to Santa Fe for much-needed conservation work.

Made by tinsmith Eddie Delgado for the museum in 1937, these three tin chandeliers are fantastic pieces of WPA craftsmanship. Conserving them took about 4 years and required a lot of patience and creativity.

He also has a special knack for moving large artworks safely. For one exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program, for instance, he oversaw the transport and installation of a 5-foot, 400-lb. wooden sphere. While the rest of the curatorial department (i.e. Amberly, our Registrar, and myself) would assist with installations and other activities, Brandon was the one who oversaw these functions.

The 5-foot wooden sphere was one of the most difficult pieces to move and install in the RAiR at 50 exhibition, but thanks to Brandon’s planning and leadership it was placed safely.

In short, Brandon was a critical member of the Roswell Museum staff, but he willingly left that position behind to move with me to Virginia. While we were moving to a place with plenty of museums, finding a preparator job in any of them wasn’t guaranteed. The museum field is a fickle place to get a job, and you usually have to go where the jobs are, not the other way around. I knew I would have plenty of opportunities in Williamsburg, but with Brandon, there was no guarantee.

As it turns out, our expectations have been exceeded.

Given his background in history, Brandon really wanted to work at Colonial Williamsburg. He initially got a position in Public Safety as a means to get his foot in the door, but he knew security wasn’t what he wanted to do in the long term. In October, however, a Senior Preparator position became available, and after a round of interviews, he was offered the. As of December 10, that’s what he’s been doing.

Loading up a desk and bookshelf in Kentucky.
Riding back from Kentucky. Brandon drove there and back with another co-worker. Whenever you transport art, it’s best to travel in pairs so you can take turns driving and help each other move the work.

Working at Colonial Williamsburg is quite different from Roswell. CW is much larger than the Roswell Museum, so staff members tend to specialize in particular fields rather than do everything. In Brandon’s case, he focuses primarily on safely moving collections items to different locations rather than install them or prep them for exhibitions. He works with a variety of both collections managers and curators to figure out what needs to be moved and how, and every day his schedule varies depending on what needs to get done. So far he’s helped move rifles, furniture, and other objects. He’s even gone to Kentucky to pick up works, and helped move a historic chair to Richmond. Although it’s different from Roswell, Brandon’s been enjoying the work quite a bit. He enjoys being part of a larger team, and in terms of his career, moving from Roswell to CW is a big step up.

Look at what Brandon made!

Brandon’s also been exploring some of his other interests, most notably blacksmithing. Earlier in the fall, he took a half-day introductory workshop, where he made a firestick. He really enjoyed that, and once his schedule settles down a bit more he’ll likely continue doing it. A fan of historical European martial arts (HEMA), Brandon has also been getting back into that, meeting with local groups in both Williamsburg and Richmond. Although he’s most comfortable with the German longsword, he’s also been exploring the saber, and even a little spear work.

I’m extremely proud of Brandon. He came to Williamsburg determined to find new opportunities, and he’s seized right onto them. I can confidently say that we’re both glad we moved here, and are looking forward to being here a little while.

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