03/10/10 — Museum's new director has conservation training

View Archive

Museum's new director has conservation training

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on March 10, 2010 1:46 PM

Full Size


Terry Williams, right, is replacing Johnna Nelson as the director of Wayne County Museum. Attendance to the museum grew under Mrs. Nelson's tenure and Ms. Williams hopes to keep improving the local museum, which focuses on the history of Wayne County.

The Wayne County Museum is welcoming a new director to oversee programs and to manage the collection's preservation.

Terry Williams, a retired Air Force aircraft maintenance officer who was once stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, was recently hired to take over from outgoing director Johnna Nelson.

Ms. Williams is a conservator, a person trained in the stabilization and preservation of historical items. After retiring from the Air Force in 2000, she studied at the City and Guilds of London Art School in England. It was while traveling in Italy that she first became interested in learning how to keep the past alive.

"After I retired from the military, I wanted to do something a little bit different," she said.

Since then, Ms. Williams has worked with copper, bronze, cast iron, drapery and many other types of materials, cleaning away the residue and rust of centuries to prevent any future damage due to age, weathering or neglect. The key to art conservation is not to change the object itself, she said.

"You're stabilizing it so people can enjoy it down the road," Ms. Williams said.

In addition to serving as the museum director, a part-time position, she is also currently part of the volunteer and professional team of conservators working to clean, document and restore the remains of what many believe to be the Queen Anne's Revenge. Artifacts from the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard are being processed in an East Carolina University facility in Greenville.

Ms. Williams has been working on the project in a hands-on role for about a month, she said. She has also worked with Historic New England and offering private conservator services as needed.

Additionally, Ms. Williams hopes to apply her skills with conservation to stabilize and maintain the historic items on display in the museum, and also would like to support getting more traffic to the museum.

"Johnna went a long way to get us on the map," she said.

Past director Mrs. Nelson resigned from the position about two months ago and will be moving to Maryland with her husband, who recently retired from the military. She plans to continue to work with Ms. Williams to help her settle in to the position, but her official last day is this week.

Mrs. Nelson said leaving the museum is "heart-wrenching," but that she is happy with the growth the museum has made during her three years as director. During those three years, museum attendance increased by 32 percent and membership also increased.

"I came to light a little spark, and now Terry's going to make it a flame," Mrs. Nelson said.

One upcoming exhibit will feature the history of local Wayne County churches that were founded before 1900. Further details will be made available at a later date.

Longtime museum assistant manager Christopher Lawson will continue to work with the museum as assistant museum director.