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Subject: Communication of conservation information

Communication of conservation information

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Saturday, May 2, 1998
An old fogey replies.

"So, there I was...."

It is not my intention to argue with Lisa Mibach, but I would like
to establish a context within which this discussion may proceed.

Lisa would like us to "...state the chemical name, manufacturer,
molecular weight, glass transition temperature, solubility
parameters, and toxicity of the same (and what practical difference
these make...)".

And that is not a bad thing.  She fondly recalls the time when many
of us could commune in the halls at professional meetings; we still
do this, but we are not always at the same meetings or in the same
countries at meetings.  That was then and this is now.  If we cannot
attend a particular meeting in a particular country, we may still
communicate our opinions more quickly today than yesterday via

However, there was once (maybe more than once) a microscopy workshop
at the McCrone Institute where there were more scientists from a
tobacco company in attendance than there were conservation
scientists in the world.

A couple of years ago I began researching iron gall ink, a substance
with more than 2 thousand years of experimental data behind it.  A
person might assume that science understands this substance.  That
is not the case.

As recently as the past seven days I have received new information
about this substance (via e-mail) from two researchers in different
parts of the world.  One is an analytical chemist looking at the
historical evolution of knowledge of the interaction between tannic
acid and ferrous sulphate; the other is a conservator examining the
relocation of iron and sulfur from iron gall ink over time on a
variety of supports in a variety of environments.  New and useful

So long as we must depend on science from within our ranks, or
science given us, we do not have the luxury of questioning too much.
We must learn to interpret, as best we may, and trust in fate that
*our* decisions will not, in time, turn and bite us, as Soluble
Nylon did.

Lisa asks: "Are there some types of information or ways of
expressing it that conservators need that are not being met by

YES!  Preprints.  AIC did a disservice the profession when they did
away with Preprints of the annual conferences.

JAIC has become little more than a pale reflection of Studies in
Conservation, and much has been lost thereby.  We also lost much
when the organization (AIC) discharged Martha Morales in favor of
hiring *professional* organization managers, and I doubt that we
will ever recover from that decision.

AIC is renewing a drive for professionalism, which always occurs at
the expense of the profession.  One need only study history to learn
that lesson.

Lisa's call is for orthodoxy and that is not entirely a bad thing.
But it is not necessarily a good thing.

And, it's Dr. Organ, not Mr. Organ.

>The Net gives us wonderful opportunities (which Mr.Robert Organ
>foresaw in the early '70s....

>....but we must not allow ease of communication to substitute for our own
>professional obligation to keep our knowledge up to date and accurate.

I could not agree more.

It only requires subscriptions to upwards of 30 journals and an
expense of a few thousand dollars a year to accumulate the growing
literature of the profession.

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab.
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, OR  97217
503-735-3942  (voice/fax)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:89
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 5, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-11-89-003
Received on Saturday, 2 May, 1998

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