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Subject: Curatorial approval of minor conservation treatments

Curatorial approval of minor conservation treatments

From: Karen Potje <kpotje>
Date: Wednesday, March 13, 1996
The curatorial and conservation personnel of the Canadian Centre for
Architecture are currently attempting to establish guidelines for
curatorial decision making regarding the conservation of objects in
their collections. In general, the conservator and curator must
jointly sign a treatment proposal before treatment begins on any
object.  We are wondering, however, if there is a way to sidestep
the issue of curatorial permission for certain minor stabilizing
treatments (eg. repair of small edge tears, reattachment of fragile
or detached fragments to avoid losing them) without compromising the
guidelines we have been trying so hard to set.

Because our collections are almost entirely paper based we are often
under great pressure before an exhibition to stabilize hundreds of
works of art on paper.  Many of them require only minimal treatment,
and our work slows down greatly when we must wait for written
permission for these minor operations. In the past we have sometimes
worked with verbal approval only, but this informal arrangement has
been very inconsistent.  We are now looking for a way to write this
sort of permission into our treatment approval guidelines.

We have thought of appending a sentence such as the following to our

   "Conservators are authorized to carry out minor stabilizing
    treatments (such as repair of small tears and attachment of
    fragile or detached fragments to prevent their imminent loss)
    without prior written permission of the custodian of the
    collection.  Conservators will follow normal documentation
    procedures for such treatments."

Do conservators in other institutions always need curatorial approval
for ALL treatments?  Are there any institutions which have different
guidelines regarding curatorial approval for minor vs. major
treatments?  I would like to hear from anyone who has an interest in
this topic.

Karen Potje
Head, Conservation/Preservation
Canadian Centre for Architecture
Montreal, Canada

                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:65
                  Distributed: Monday, March 18, 1996
                        Message Id: cdl-9-65-004
Received on Wednesday, 13 March, 1996

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