Published: March 18, 2008
Craigen Weston Bowen, deputy director of the Straus Center for Conservation at Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum and an accomplished rock climber and gardener, died at her home in Lexington on March 1, 16 months after being diagnosed with cancer. She was 54.
She was born Ruth Craigen Weston on November 10, 1953, the daughter of Frederick W. Weston Jr and the late Ruth L. Weston, and spent her childhood in West Long Branch, N.J., and Rome, Maine. At Smith College, she double-majored in art and astronomy, with a minor in physics, and developed into a talented lithographer.
After graduating in 1975, she began a three-year apprenticeship in the conservation laboratory at the Fogg under Marjorie B. Cohn, specializing in the conservation of works of art on paper. She later collaborated with Cohn on scholarly projects. In 1978, Craigen moved to the Williamstown Regional Conservation Laboratory at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., where she founded the paper conservation laboratory. In 1980, she returned to the Fogg. That same year, she married Mark S. Bowen, whose family owns a home on the same lake in Maine as hers.
Craigen was the recipient of an Indo-US subcommission grant to travel to Kota, India, in 1987, and made several subsequent trips there to treat and study the royal collections of H.H. Maharao Brijraj Singh in the Rao Madho Singh Trust Museum.
In 1994, the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard awarded her the certificate of distinction in teaching. She was recently awarded the prestigious Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award by the American Institute for Conservation, which recognizes a sustained record of excellence in the education and training of conservation professionals.
At the time of her death, in addition to her role as deputy director of the laboratory, Craigen held an endowed position as Philip and Lynn Straus conservator of works of art on paper at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. The Craigen W. Bowen Fellowship was established in her honor in 2007, to fund the further training of young conservation and curatorial professionals who specialize in works on paper.
Among her many interests and talents, Craigen was an avid rock climber and mountaineer, imaginative cook, expert skier and water-skier, prolific knitter and implacable organizer and taskmaster. She took great pleasure in gardening, reading and, later in life, learning to play the piano.
Craigen is survived by her children, Andrew and Anna Bowen of Lexington and Arlington; her partner, James W. Evans of Watertown, Mass.; her father, Frederick W. Weston Jr of Belgrade Lakes, Maine; her sister, Martha Weston Feldmann, and her children, Hillary and Jeffrey Feldmann of East Greenwich, R.I.; her brother, Frederick W. Weston III, his wife, Karen Lindstadt Weston, and their children, Rachel and Paul Weston of Waterbury, Vt.; dear friend and cousin, Hillary Schultz and her husband, Peter, of Rome, Maine; friend and former husband, Mark S. Bowen of Arlington, Mass.; and legions of devoted cousins, colleagues and friends.
A memorial service will be conducted at 3 pm Saturday, March 22, in the Calderwood Courtyard at the Fogg Art Museum on the campus of Harvard University.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Craigen’s name may be made to The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, PO Box 250, Belgrade Lakes ME 04918; Harvard University Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA (for the study centers at 32 Quincy Street); or the Landscape Committee, PTSA, Lexington High School, 251 Waltham Street, Lexington MA 02421.