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Will Work for Art: Debra Evans

"Will Work for Art" is a new series of blog posts that will take you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums possible. Our inaugural staff member is Debra Evans, head of paper conservation. Originally from Hawaii, she has been at the museums for 28 years.

What do you do here at the Museums?

I’m in charge of preservation and conservation for close to 100,000 prints, drawings, photographs and books.

How did you become involved with the Museums?

I came here in 1980 for a year-long internship in the paper lab, the last year in a three-year graduate program in art conservation administered by the University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum.

What is your favorite artwork or gallery in the Museums and why?

A strange book by Charles Carrick entitled Flights of Fancy. It’s one of the hidden treasures of the Museums’ collection of works on paper. We don't know much about it except that it was made in England between the years 1842 and 1877 by a little known poet. It has 159 pages of drawings—all different and surprisingly surreal and abstract for their time. It’s a book exhibiting an intense obsession and, indeed, its text tells us that it was inspired by unrequited love!

Charles Carrick Flights of Fancy
Charles Carrick, English, active 19th century
Flights of Fancy or Imaginary Scraps, ca. 1842–1877
Book with 216 unnumbered pages of drawings, including 42 blank pages
Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund and Dora D. Ide Fund

What are you working on right now?

In a brief lull between exhibitions, I’m working on improving the housing of our fabulous collection of 19th-century cased photographs—mostly daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in exquisite little cases.

What do you do when you’re not at the Museums?

I’m a rabid Scrabble player and I’ve been making wax resist-dyed eggs for over thirty years.

Do you remember the first time you visited the Museums?

I was ten years old and I don’t remember the art but I do remember the beatniks we saw that day.


Debra Evans is one of the happiest people i know and when I think of people who love their jobs, she is always at the top of the list. She makes every day at work interesting and takes delight in the most daunting repair problems. Her skill and expertise have made her a widely recognized expert and teacher of other conservators around the world. She may be one of my very best friends, but I know that everyone who has met her comes away with these very same conclusions!
I completely agree with Debra Pughe's comments above! Debra Evans is a star! She not only "will work 4 art" she loves the collection and what she does. Her passion is contagious and her spirit irrepressible as she promotes the best qualities of the Fine Arts Museums to all with whom she comes in contact. On tours, she matches her art choices to her audience-- I once saw her calm a slightly unruly group of English High School boys with the collection's simple drawing by Michelangelo. They were awed to be so close to a master. They talked about her tour years after as the highlight of their trip to San Francisco. She awes us all constantly with her good nature, her fine eye, her sensitive touch during conservation, her brightness and her unwavering support for doing the right thing no matter what the issue. The museum is so lucky to have her! And if you haven't seen her pysanky--wax resist eggs--do try to! you are in for a real treat. Her talent is prodigious.