If you’ve inherited a family heirloom that once belonged to your great, great, great grandmother, your first instinct would probably be to proudly display it in your living room. But if you live in a place like La Jolla and are prone to opening up your windows and doors to feel that cool ocean breeze, you might be doing that precious object more harm than you realize.
Enter, Melanie Dellas and Karen Lacy.
The two San Diego women officially started Muse Curatorial Consulting Group in 2017 out of a love for preserving historical artifacts. Lacy worked in the museum industry for nearly 20 years; most recently as a collection manager for the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Dellas interned at the museum under Lacy after finishing grad school and was later hired on as her collection assistant. They curated the popular “Monsters!” and realized they made a pretty good team. They also realized that there was a whole group of people who could use their combined expertise: private collectors.
“Working in the collections department, we’d get calls and emails all the time asking for advice on how to take care of something,” Lacy said; with that "something” usually being decades old.
“Back then, we didn’t have time to help them,” Dellas said. “So we saw a niche we knew we could fill.”
Today, Dellas and Lacy are helping people all over San Diego — many in La Jolla — preserve and restore their fine art, vintage pieces, historic, and family heirlooms. Whether it’s getting rid of the leech salt off of ancient ceramics, restoring an old astronaut training suit or building custom storage boxes for pre-Columbian pottery, the women behind MCCG can do almost anything. And if they can’t, they know someone who can.
“Museums are mostly understaffed and overworked and can’t help private people,” Dellas said. "We want to help as many people as we can and save as many objects as we can for future generations."
“We pretty much will do anything to protect the collection they have,” Lacy said. “We want to keep it safe from the natural disasters in our area like fires, floods, and earthquakes."
While MCCG’s services are individualized to the client’s needs, but they often do things like collection care, management inventory, conservation, exhibit design, archival care, packing, grant writing, training programs, object history research, custom rehousing and, of course, answer any questions.
“Most of our clients are in La Jolla, and one of the problems we always get complaints about is mold issue,” Dellas said. “Most people like to have [artifacts] out and about at the home with windows and doors open to get that wonderful breeze, but they don’t pay attention to what the salty air is doing to their pieces and fine art."
In addition to helping people with her personal historic collections, Dellas and Lacy also want to educate. That’s one of the reasons why they created their podcast, “Muse Stories: The Unusual History of Everything,” where they talk about the backgrounds of different objects that people are unlikely to have heard in history class; like the straw.
“Going into someone's home and seeing their beautiful collections, it’s really quite something,” Dellas said, reflecting on her new role. "It’s not something that everyone gets to do.”
For more information about Muse Curatorial Consulting Group, visit musecuratorial.com. The podcast, which is on its third season, is available on iTunes.