Anne MacKay - Head, Conservation - McCord Museum

Collections and Research

Photo: © Laura Dumitriu, 2017

Anne MacKay

Head, Conservation

The greatest gift conservation has given to me has been the chance to explore the connections between thought and action, history and object, idea and materiality, miraculously bringing into sharp focus what I had once felt to be the wildly divergent passions of my youth!


Anne MacKay joined the McCord Museum team in 1997, and has since led the Conservation department, fostering best practices in all aspects of the preservation and use of the Museum’s collections. She oversees the department’s active treatment program, furthers research on museum objects and conservation issues, and promotes excellence in collections care.

MacKay is also responsible for representing collections conservation concerns to all departments of the Museum. She liaises with the Collections and Research, and Collections Management departments to identify institutional issues and goals regarding the storage, loan and travel of the collections.

She collaborates closely with the Programs department to ensure the maintenance of high standards in all aspects of exhibition planning and production, and has headed the conservation team in the production of almost 70 in-house exhibitions. .

MacKay is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, with an accreditation in the conservation of sculpture. She is also a member of the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property and has served on several executive councils of its board. She is an associate editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation. MacKay has taught university courses on the history and theory of conservation and has extensively lectured and published on a range of conservation issues.

MacKay received a Diploma in Sculpture from the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art + Design), and holds a BFA in art history from Concordia University in Montreal, as well as a Master of Art Conservation from Queen’s University in Kingston. Before her tenure at the McCord Museum, she held the position of conservator of sculpture and decorative arts at the National Gallery of Canada.


Selected Publications

“Enhanced: Nineteenth Century Hand-coloured Photographic Portraits.” In Topics in Photographic Preservation Volume 17, edited by J. Keister and M.-L. Beauchamp. Washington, DC: American Institute for Conservation, 2019.

“When is Conservation? Object Biography and Conservation Practice.” In Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections/À la recherche du savoir : Nouveaux échanges sur les collections du Musée McCord, edited by Joanne Burgess, Cynthia Cooper, Céline Widmer and Natasha Zwarich, 37-52. Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2015.

“The Frame in Context: The Seagram Collection at the McCord Museum.” Journal of Canadian Art History 35, no. 2 (2014): 155–172.

Werner, Ute, Lyndsie S. Selwyn, Tom Stone, W. Ross McKinnon, Anne MacKay and Tara Grant. “The Removal of Metal Soaps from Brass Beads on a Leather Belt.” Studies in Conservation 57, no. 1 (Jan. 2012): 3–20.

Selected Presentations

“Picturing us: A critical visual analysis of photographs used for conservation outreach,” Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property Annual Conference, Kingston, May 10-12, 2018.

“Contributions to a Critical Theory of Conservation,” What Does Heritage Change? Association for Critical Heritage Studies, Montreal, June 3–8, 2016.

“Enhanced: Nineteenth Century Hand-Coloured Photographic Portraits,” Emergency! Preparing for Disasters and Confronting the Unexpected in Conservation, Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property and American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Palais des congrès, Montreal, May 13–17, 2016.

The Frame in Context: The Seagram Collection at the McCord Museum,” Frames and Framing: The History and Function of Frames in Canada, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, September 26–27, 2014.

When is Conservation? Treatment and Object Biography,” Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections, Montréal, Dynamic HubSpace: History, Heritage, Future and the McCord Museum, Montreal, November 7–9, 2013.

 “The Examination of an Early Iroquois Headdress,” Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property Annual Conference, Vancouver, May 27–June 2, 2009.

  “Tracing the Body: Museum Mannequins and Exhibition,” Bodies on Display, McCord Museum, Montreal, November 6–8, 2008.

“A String of Beads Unbroken: Continuity and Collaboration in an Exhibition of Iroquois Beadwork,” 15th Triennial Conference of the International Council of Museums – Conservation Committee, New Delhi, September 22–26, 2008.

 “The Exhibition of Aboriginal Heritage at the McCord Museum,” Symposium 2007 – Preserving Aboriginal Heritage: Technical and Traditional Approaches, Canadian Conservation Institute, Ottawa, September 24–28, 2007.

“A Study of Moosehair Embroidered Souvenir Objects,” Recovering the Past: The Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Textiles, North American Textile Conservation Conference, Mexico City, November 8–11, 2005.

Not to be missed!