Narelle graduated from the University of Canberra in 1994 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in the Conservation of Cultural Material. Specialising in works of art on paper, Narelle has worked in numerous cultural institutions in the US and Australia including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney as well as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
The care of contemporary art often requires an innovative and collaborative approach. Artworks may be enormous in scale with display and installation challenges, they could be ephemeral in nature or made from inherently poor quality materials. Often the conservator is required to work directly with the artist to re-create a work in the gallery space. Conservation in these circumstances is a highly engaging and fascinating profession.
After a move to Armidale Narelle spent years working as the Registrar and Collections Manager of the New England Regional Art Museum. Small museums require staff to apply their knowledge to a vast and varied array of responsibilities. Narelle was responsible for the care of the entire collection – its display, storage and handling, installation, framing, loan and transportation, conservation and preservation. She curated a number of exhibitions and reinstated and chaired the acquisition and deaccession committee.
Narelle’s interests moved to the Community Arts and Cultural Development sector. She spent a number of years working with Beyond Empathy, a not-for-profit organization that uses the arts to influence change and enrich the lives of individuals and communities experiencing recurring hardship. Narelle worked as a project manager creating conceptual artworks to engage with marginalized people in the local community, aiming to break cycles of disadvantage, embed new attitudes and develop new skills. During her years of working the contemporary art world she developed her own artistic aesthetic and designed successful site specific installations that resonated with the public. In 2014 Narelle was accepted into the Australia Council Emerging Leaders Development Program.
A chance encounter with a whale skeleton needing conservation treatment in 2016 led to Narelle’s current position at the UNE Natural History Museum. Here her responsibilities are fundamentally the same. She has spent her career as advocate, champion and carer – whether it be for fine art, people who could not advocate for themselves, or as she does now – for biological specimens, collected and preserved in the pursuit of knowledge of the world around us.