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Subject: AIC Code of Ethics revision

AIC Code of Ethics revision

From: Jack C. Thompson <jct>
Date: Thursday, July 1, 1993
Over the past couple of weeks there have been a number of interesting
postings concerning the next revision of the AIC Code of Ethics and
Standards of Practice.

Some of these postings have perpetuated errors in perception, comparing
elements of conservation practice with the practice of law, medicine,
and banking.

Let us begin with banking, the easy one.  It is possible to learn
something about another's bank balance if you have the number of an
account.  Call the bank, identify yourself as a merchant who is taking a
check in return for goods or services.  Ask whether or not the check is
good for whatever amount seems good to you.  They will tell you that the
check is good for that amount or that it is not.  In either case, you
know something about the balance available to that person.

The law.  So far as I know, the American Bar Association is still trying
to regulate fee splitting.

Medicine.  A physicians records are private property.

Bankers, lawyers, and doctors are generally members of a national
organization.  Regulation of these people is given over to the states in
which they practice (in the US).

Documentation.  From the ages of approx. 15-35, I had one doctor.  He
died.  In my early 40's, a malady recurred.  I appealed to the widow for
the medical record.  The written record remained and was made available
to my current physician.  The X-rays (which were important) were gone.
The good doctor had recycled them to recover the value of the silver (as
an aside, I once supervised the building of a time capsule for a
hospital; one of the artifacts included was a rather large brick of
silver recovered from hospital X-rays).

I do not give much credence to codes/standards based upon medical,
legal, or banking practice.

Over the course of 20 years of private practice I have evolved certain
principles of practice (as contrasted with standards of practice).

My treatment proposal form has a sentence which gives the Thompson
Conservation Laboratory authority to decide whether or not any
documentation is to be used for educational or research purposes.

The documentation is available to the client for a fee.  $10.00 for a
summary written report (in addition to what was written as the treatment
proposal, and what is written on the invoice).  A full copy of all
documentation is available for an additional fee, which depends on the
amount and kind of documentation made for a particular artifact.  Too
many clients over the years (including museums) have dumped
documentation in the garbage can on their way out the door for me to
feel different about this.

I decide how much documentation, and what sort of documentation will be
performed.  For a 12th c. mss book in a later binding, the documentation
included bifolium drawings, more than 90 color slides, and numerous b/w
photos; for someone's grandparent's wedding certificate (colorful form
lithographed in Germany, written out in a Lutheran church [for instance]
in North Dakota), it will be a photocopy of an artifact which will be
relaxed, flattened, and mylar encapsulated.

Concern and attitude will not be different, but documentation will be

Richard Cox questions the value of AIC's Code of Ethics, asserting that
there is no effective mechanism for enforcement.  It may be that a
majority of current members of AIC do not remember when a complaint was
made to the head office that a regional conservation center was not
adhering to the Code of Ethics.  A review board was formed and a review
was made which resulted in changes in the standards of practice of that
regional center.

I, personally, do not agree that the national organization has the
authority to regulate individual or regional center practice.  They may
encourage adherence to the code, but the states have the final say, and
that say can be amusing.  When I first employed staff, I took out
workmans compensation insurance (and medical insurance, and approx. 5
different taxes).  The state of Oregon decided that I was a commercial
bookbinder, because the lab restored books and that category was in
their list of lists.  I objected.  They sent a field worker with a
Polaroid camera.  There were no power machines in the lab; the field
worker understood and wrote his report.  It did not work.  Some months
later, after appeals and more visits by the field worker, I went before
the BOARD.  Showed them documentation; before and after photographs of
book conservation.  One month later they sent me their finding.  My
staff and I were classified as commercial photographers; one of the
cheapest workmans compensation rates in the state.  I did not appeal.
But I did begin to think about the Code of Ethics, and what it means.

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab.
Portland, Oregon   USA

                  Conservation DistList Instance 7:10
                   Distributed: Friday, July 9, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-7-10-003
Received on Thursday, 1 July, 1993

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