Career librarian Patricia Van Skaik made a five-block hop in February from one downtown hall of books to another. Bigger was her leap from the world of history and genealogy at the public library’s main branch to one of insects, fungus, and pharmaceuticals at the independent, scientific Lloyd Library and Museum.
Had you ever rung the Lloyd’s doorbell before applying to be its executive director? The first time I ever came here as an outsider, except for meetings a couple of times over the years, was in the fall of 2016 for a FotoFocus exhibition. One of the things I’m most excited about is that the exhibition work is collection-based. I love bringing collections to life and collaborating with outside organizations to cover a bigger scope.
The Lloyd’s current exhibit marries the library’s book of 300-year-old insect and botanical drawings by Maria Sibylla Merian with new taxidermy by Jeremy Johnson. What is it like? It is totally from my playbook and in sync with how I approach exhibition work and collaboration. Exhibits have to be visually captivating, and this one is. As a vegetarian, the idea of somebody stuffing animals is kind of icky. But from the very beginning, it has been very interesting and exciting. Jeremy and I bonded immediately over the beauty of Merian’s work and its scientific significance.
You describe yourself as a foodie, an herb and perennial gardener, a mass transit supporter, and a preservationist. What else? I guess I’m an urbanist to the core. I love cities. I like their vitality, their diversity. I can’t imagine living or working anywhere but in a city.
You are a big promoter of the Walnut Hills area, where your family lives in a 1989 infill house you built. Does that conflict with your preservationist beliefs? No. The early-1900s house we tore down was falling apart. I had it replaced with a house that matches the early-1900s houses in the neighborhood. One of the things that happens, which I consider a compliment, is [that] people drive by our house and say “You did a fabulous job on the rehab.” Then they see it has a poured foundation and ask “How did you get a 100-year-old house on a poured foundation?”