Conservation Staff

Kelly McHugh, Head of Conservation, was NMAI Head of Collections Management (2018–2022) and NMAI objects conservator (1996–2018). She focuses on shared stewardship through collaborative conservation, collections access, cultural protocol policy and artistic revitalization. She was a core member in the development of the School for Advanced Research Guidelines for Collaboration and serves on the Smithsonian Shared Stewardship and Ethical Returns implementation group. Kelly holds an MA in Art Conservation/Art History from the NYU Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts and a BA in Art History and Peace and Global Policy Studies from New York University. Email:

Susan Heald, textile conservator (1994–present), specializes in preserving textiles and clothing, making them accessible to communities and makers and working to promote shared stewardship. She frequently contributes to the Association of Tribal Archives Libraries and Museums conference, and is active with the American Institute for Conservation Materials Working Group and Textiles Specialty Group. She previously served on the board of the North American Textile Conservation Conference. Susan holds an MS in Art Conservation (textile major/objects minor) from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and a BA in Chemistry and Anthropology from the George Washington University. Email:

Emily Kaplan, objects conservator (1996–present), specializes in collaborative multi-disciplinary collections-based research, focusing on the materiality of ancient and colonial material culture from the Andes and Mesoamerica. She has served as American Institute for Conservation Objects Specialty Group chair, Smithsonian Congress of Scholars co-chair, and was a founding member of Emily was Conservation Coordinator for the five-year NMAI Collections Move from the Bronx, NY, to the NMAI Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland. She holds an MA in Art Conservation from Queen’s University, and a BA in Art History/Studio Art from University of Massachusetts Boston. Email:

Shelly Uhlir, exhibition specialist/mountmaker (2001–present), focuses on specialties that include design, fabrication, and installation of mounts for exhibition and photography, technical expertise on mountmaking standards and design review, mannequin-making, and training in the art of exhibition mountmaking. Previously, she was crew leader, mountmaker, and seminar co-leader for Benchmark, Exhibits Specialist at the National Museum of African Art, and an independent contractor on multiple exhibitions. She is a founding member of the International Mountmaking Forum. Shelly holds a BA with a major in studio arts/photography and minors in art history/language (French/Chinese) from Northern Illinois University. Email:

Beth Holford, objects conservator (2012–present), is dedicated to the Community Loans Initiative, working with partner communities to enhance shared stewardship capacity. She is active with the American Institute for Conservation Materials Testing Working Group. Previously, she was NMAI contract conservator for Integrated Pest Management, owner and principal conservator for Holford Objects Conservation, LLC, and Assistant Objects Conservator at the Museums of New Mexico, Santa Fe. Beth holds an MS in art conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and a BA in history from Towson University. Email:

Caitlin Mahony, objects conservator (2019–present), focuses on advancing shared stewardship initiatives in conservation, and has particular interests in caring for basketry, items made of hide, contemporary art, and outdoor sculptures. She serves on the advisory board for the Andrew W. Mellon Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation and on the board of directors for the Washington Conservation Guild. Previously, she was an Assistant Conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She holds an MA from the UCLA/Getty Program for the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, and a BA in Anthropology from Skidmore College. Email: