Amazing Women of the Suncoast: Barbara Ramsay

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Barbara Ramsay, chief conservator at Ringling Museum, is a very lucky lady for 2 reasons: One, she still loves the career she chose some 40 years ago; and number 2, the work she does will last after her, bringing joy to art lovers maybe even centuries from now.

Ramsay is responsible for overseeing the cleaning, preserving, and repairing all the art in the museum, Ca d’Zan, the Circus Museum, and the Historic Asolo.

It’s very important work, because without it… “a lot of works of art would be lost completely. Others would survive but in a damaged state or in a changed state so that it doesn't reflect what the original was," says Ramsay.

And so using all the latest chemicals and high-tech tools, and painting in any damaged areas herself, she makes sure the art at Ringling will endure.

"I think art gives so much pleasure to people, it really adds to the quality of life."

Barbara Ramsay was born in western Canada. “I went to the University of Toronto. My first degree was a Bachelor of Science in biology; I was headed for genetics research."

But she decided she was on the wrong path. "So I changed course; I studied art history and studio art still at University of Toronto, and then I traveled in Europe for a time. And I visited so many museums and churches, when I came back I thought I really have to be working in art, but I didn't want to give up the science."

Then fate intervened.

"Right at that time there was a Master of Art Conservation program starting at Queen's University, and I got in the first year of the program and never looked back."

Her first job was at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottowa; she worked there 20 years and her two sons were born there.

"I moved to Washington, DC. I established a new conservation division at ARTEX, a private fine art services firm."

She was there 15 years, working on the Clyfford Still Collection and several restoration projects in the U.S. Capitol Building.

And what has she learned on her journey? "Follow your own interests; follow your passions…don't set too many limits too soon. Explore the world, travel."

So the next time you’re walking through the museum, enjoying the beautiful art, remember Barbara Ramsay is working behind the scenes to make sure this art endures -- not only for your lifetime, but for centuries to come.