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Subject: AIC Code of Ethics revision

AIC Code of Ethics revision

From: Gary Frost <70703.104>
Date: Thursday, June 17, 1993
My initial reaction to the current draft Code is that it is well
expressed and clearly defines the work of the conservator. Those that
find themselves undescribed may simply be something other than
conservators from an AIC perspective. There is nothing terrible in that.

There are specific conflicts between the specialized practice of library
collections conservation and the ideal practice presented by the AIC
Code. Though frequently mentioned, this is not a conflict as to
documentation of treatment. The collections treatments need the fullest
documentation and items treated under such standards must be assured the
stated treatment. The distinction here is that the collection, not the
item, is the "object" and, the documentation requirement is fulfilled at
this level.

More consequential conflicts between the AIC Code and the practice of
specialists in library collections conservation arise in areas of
consent, supervision, justification and suitability of treatment. The
library collections conservator works in a different environment of
curatorial consent. Collections are not so much esthetic objects as they
are dynamic resources that fluctuate in value and in the forms of their
use and meaning. Treatments must accord with the protection of these
dynamic resources, not with simple artifactual preservation alone.

A conflict in the need for supervision arises for the specialist in
collections conservation in that much of the work is done by
technicians, not by conservators. There is also a social and technical
context for the work, in a production setting, that contrasts with most
of conservation practice. Professional control of treatment extends only
through the refinements of specifications, the ingenuity of production
devices and the focused skills of technicians. The library collections
conservator does not have direct, manual control of treatment.

Justification and suitability of treatment within the specialty of
library collections conservation follows logic paths uncondoned and
unimagined by the AIC Code.

For example, library collections treatment must account for the
interplay of originals and copies and may well "preserve" originals
through the production of surrogates. Such treatment logic is alien to
the AIC Code. Again, modification of the original, including change or
discard of components, is integral to library collections treatment, but
not to the AIC Code.

In my view, the coherency of the AIC Code should not be compromised, if
that's what it means to integrate the practice of specializations such
as library collections conservation. Such specializations should simply
fulfill their professional responsibilities and define ethical practice
on their own. Perhaps the ALA/ALCTS/PLMS is a professional organization
better suited to support specialists in library collections
conservation. In my view it is an organization more reflective of the
social and technical context of library collections conservation and it
offers much wider resource of peer review.

Gary Frost

                   Conservation DistList Instance 7:5
                  Distributed: Saturday, June 19, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-7-5-001
Received on Thursday, 17 June, 1993

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