Urgent Museum Notice

Pamela Spitzmueller

A black-and-white photograph of a smiling Pamela Spitzmueller, a light-skinned woman with eyeglasses, in a conservation lab. Her hair is parted in the middle and pulled back, revealing dangling earrings. She wears an ikat-woven jacket.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Born in 1950

Spitzmueller grew up in suburban Chicago, “making things” in her father’s wood workshop. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in art education, she went on to study bookbinding with the book conservator Gary Frost of the Newberry Library, where she worked from 1976 to 1983. There, she broke traditional gender barriers by becoming the first woman trained in assignments requiring physical strength and artistic decision-making.

After moving to Washington, D.C., Spitzmueller worked in the Library of Congress as a rare book conservator. She was invited to direct the University of Iowa’s Conservation Department and serve as an associate professor in the School of Art and Art History. In 1998, Spitzmueller was appointed the first James H. Needham Chief Conservator for Special Collections at Harvard University’s Library Preservation Center.

She received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant in 1979, an Andrew Mellon Foundation Grant in 1993, and a Kress Foundation Fellowship in 1992.

Spitzmueller frequently dedicates her artists’ books to her favorite poets and artists, and in 1998, Spitzmueller was asked to create an artist’s book for Hillary Rodham Clinton. For Hillary includes the poem “Fate Conspires to Strengthen Us” by Anne Dutlinger.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Pamela Spitzmueller
  • Birth

    Chicago, 1950
  • Phonetic Spelling

    PAM-eh-lah spihts-MEW-lerr

Works by Pamela Spitzmueller

British Museum Memoir

British Museum Memoir is bound in a thin sheet of copper. This very light book derives a sense of volume and airiness from its crumpled-paper interior, yet it is surprisingly durable. Pamela Spitzmueller created this fragile and intimate book after a visit to London’s British Museum, where she was both inspired and frustrated by objects in the exhibition cases, which tantalize...

A book whose cover is made of copper is open and standing upright with its spine facing viewer. Three horizontal bands of wound copper wire extend the width of the accordian pleated spine. Crumpled paper comprises the pages of the book.