Nancy Fonicello is a private practice objects conservator, specializing in the preservation of indigenous cultural materials. She holds a degree in Environmental Chemistry, Summa Cum Laude from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She has studied Native American art for over 40 years, first as a student, then as a professional artist, finally as a teacher of native traditional arts. She is widely known for her expertise in the traditional techniques of porcupine quillwork, beadwork, hide tanning and feather work and regularly incorporates these techniques into her conservation and preservation work.
Nancy’s projects include the conservation of the Chief Plenty Coups eagle feather bonnet and coup stick on display at Arlington National Cemetery, treatment of Native American cultural objects for the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, VA, the U.S. Army Museum at Fort Sill, OK, and objects from the personal collection of famed American cowboy artist Charlie Russell. Other clients include the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin, Germany, the Anchorage Museum, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Museum of the Rockies, the Smithsonian Institution, the Montana Historical Society, and numerous private collectors from around the world. Nancy was the keynote speaker for the New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials (NZCCM) annual conference in 2015.
Nancy has taught traditional porcupine quillwork techniques to Native American tribal students under grants from the Montana Arts Council, and has conducted numerous workshops in the United States and abroad. Her teaching curriculum is used by Aurora College in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, for their Traditional Arts Certification program. She served as the lead instructor for a week long workshop on Athabaskan art for museum professionals and native artists at the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage, Alaska and conducted a workshop on the conservation of quillwork at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin.
In addition to her training as an objects conservator, Nancy is a certified Digital Archives Specialist, and serves as a consultant and conservator for collections of rare recordings and photographs.
Publications and Lectures
Treatment and Storage of a Buffalo Hide Tipi, Western Association for Art Conservation (WAAC) newsletter, Volume 41, Number 1, January 2019
Conservation of a National Treasure: The Chief Plenty Coups Bonnet and Coups Stick at Arlington National Cemetery, Western Association for Art Conservation Annual Conference, Tucson, AZ 2016
Traditional Materials and Techniques for Modern Conservation: The Use of Indigenous Materials and Techniques for the Conservation of Native American Ethnographic Materials, keynote address, New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials Annual Conference, Christchurch, New Zealand 2015
Before Beads: Porcupine Quillwork Techniques of the Native Americans, lecture and workshop, Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana 2012
An Effective Method for Cleaning Feather Bonnets, ICOM Ethnographic Conservation Newsletter, Number 31, February 2010
Multiquill Plaiting: Unusual Porcupine Quillwork Techniques of the Historic Upper Missouri Peoples, presentation, Material Culture of the Prairie, Plains, and Plateau Conference, Lewiston, ID 2010
Disrobing: Research and Preventive Conservation of Painted Hide Robes at the Ethnological Museum, National Museums, Berlin, Germany, presentation, American Institute for Conservation Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA 2009
Special Considerations in the Use of the Handheld XRF Spectrometer for Pesticide Surveys of Ethnographic Collections, presentation, International Biocide Conference, Berlin, Germany 2008. Also published in ICOM Ethnographic Conservation Newsletter, Number 28, February 2007
Using Art and Science to Preserve History Collections, Guest Speaker, Top Hands Lecture Series, Charles M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana 2007
The Identification of Historic Dyes in Porcupine Quillwork, People of the Buffalo, Volume 2, Tatanka Press, Germany 2005