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Subject: Communication of conservation information Professionalism and certification

Communication of conservation information Professionalism and certification

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Friday, May 15, 1998
Jerry Podany <jpodany [at] getty__edu> writes

>As I was reading Jack Thompson's recent effort... I had to wonder what
>he meant by "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."  This is a very significant statement
>which carries a lot of hidden insinuations.  I think we could all
>benefit from him being a bit more specific. (snip)

Contrary to Jerry Podany's assertion that my statement contained
"hidden insinuations", I believe that the insinuation was clear;
much was not expressed, but nothing was hidden.

In the March, 1998, issue of AIC News, pp. 12-14, Mary Todd Glaser's
article, "Revisiting Certification: AIC and the World beyond
Conservation" recaps the history of this issue.  On page 14 she
states that only 18% of the AIC membership responding to a 1984
questionnaire felt that they would apply to be certified; she goes
on to say that in 1986 the AIC board of directors decided to disband
the Committee on Accreditation and Certification.

She does not mention the petition circulated at the 1984 AIC
conference by Keiko Keyes and others, signed by 154 members
(including myself) which stated:

   "We the undersigned urge that AIC adopt the following policy:
    AIC shall not for any purpose disclose to any person or
    organization the status of an AIC member as a certified
    conservator in paper conservation until AIC has adopted a final
    plan with respect to certification."

During this period (early '80's) both US and Canadian conservation
organizations were examining the certification issue.

The Canadian conservators were doing a better job of examining the
issues, and they have recently come out with another discussion
paper: "An Examination of the Current Situation Concerning
Accreditation in Canada with Recommendations for Future Action." May
2, 1997.

Doris Badir's article, "Professionalism and Socialization
Characteristics", published in the IIC-CG Newsletter, vol. 9, No. 1,
Sept., 1983 makes for very interesting reading, as does Agnes
Ballestrem's submission to the November, 1978, Standards and
Training Committee meeting of the International Centre for the Study
of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property: "The
Restorer: A Definition of the Profession".

There is another very interesting document:

The Advisory Opinion of the Federal Trade Commission to the American
National Standards Institute, Inc. which may be found at: CCH Trade
Regulations Rep. 1718.20.  Sixteen points are covered in this
document. Point number one states: "Standardization and
certification programs must not be used as devices for fixing prices
or otherwise lessening competition." Point number sixteen states:
"Certification programs should avoid the use of single standard,
'pass/fail' systems, and, in lieu thereof, employ graded systems
which preserve consumer and user options".  The other 14 points are
also interesting to read.

There are some things which I cannot write in this forum because
they are protected by US copyright law.  Letters from Elizabeth
West-Fitzhugh (as Chair of the AIC board of directors) and Barbara
Appelbaum (as Chair of the Committee on Accreditation and
Certification) responding to letters from me are protected; but I
can and will quote from some of my correspondence with them from the
period when this was last a large issue within AIC (my file from
this period is about an inch thick, so bear with me if I don't go on
at great length about this chaotic matter).

On 20 July, 1983, I wrote to Barbara Appelbaum:

   "I have long felt that AIC made a serious mistake in allowing a
    grandfather clause for Fellows, and more recently in allowing a
    grandfather clause for 'certified' paper conservators.  While it
    would undoubtedly be distasteful to retroactively de-certify
    those now certified under the grandfather clause, it would be
    the honorable thing to do.  Marilyn Weidner has pleaded with the
    grandfathers to voluntarily jump through the hoops, but to the
    best of my knowledge, none of them have done so.  One might give
    them a year or two to do so or have their certificates revoked.
    In any event, I do suggest that the AIC office be directed to
    discontinue mailing out the list of certified paper conservators
    to anyone who inquires about paper conservation services."

On 11 June, 1984, I wrote a "Letter to the Editor" (Martha Morales)
of the AIC Newsletter which stated, in part:

   "It was with some misgiving that I attended the panel discussion
    on certification of conservators which was held during the AIC
    annual meeting in Los Angeles.  Neither the individual
    presentations nor the ensuing directed discussion did anything
    to dispel my unease.  While I understand Barbara Appelbaum's
    assertion that AIC is a professional organization because it is
    not a democracy (p. 4, para. 2, "Certification: A Discussion
    Paper,) I am unable to accept, without protest, that discussion
    on a matter as important as certification should be controlled
    from the dais by requiring all questions to be submitted in
    advance, in writing.

   "Although voting relative to certification will be the
    responsibility of a very small minority of the AIC membership,
    it will affect the majority of the membership and for this
    reason the lack of a democratic forum in Los Angeles was

   "My particular concern in this matter is the high-handed manner
    in which the Board of Directors and the Committee on
    Accreditation and Certification have avoided any but the most
    cursory discussion of the legal aspects of certification.

   "The Federal Trade Commission has published a number of
    regulations relative to certification and the development of
    standards (cf. CCH Trade Regulation Rep. 1718.20) which deserves
    dissemination to the membership at large.  Perhaps, then we
    could have a panel discussion which is less burdened by emotion,
    and cast in a truly democratic mold."

Elizabeth West Fitzhugh censored that letter and responded with a
letter explaining why it was necessary to require written questions
(I wrote and submitted three questions to the panel, all about the
legal ramifications of certification, and none were chosen; nor were
any questions dealing with the law chosen for panel discussion).

Barbara Appelbaum was in a difficult position.  Chair of a committee
with authority derived from and controlled by the board of
directors, not the membership.

On 26 July, 1984, I wrote a 3 page letter to Ms. West-Fitzhugh,
which said, in part:

   "... AIC appears unwilling to address, in any substantive manner,
    the legal issues of certification.

   "You may feel that I have overdrawn these issues, but whatever
    else you may think about tilter's at windmills, we do get good

It is still not clear to me that AIC, as a corporate body, is
willing to be governed by the rule of law in the matter of

During the early 1980's I advocated building a body of agreed upon
information (such as the Paper Conservation Catalog) for each
specialty group within AIC, and standard forms for documentation as
precursors to certification.

In the October, 1870 issue of The Journal of the Gynaecological
Society of Boston, Dr. Joseph G. Pinkham wrote an article advocating
that medical doctors standardize their forms and nomenclature,
because this would advance the cause of patient care.

In December, 1984, also in Boston, Dr. Sanford Marcus (president of
the Union of American Physicians and Dentists), writing in the _New
England Journal of Medicine_, attacks HMO's, stating that:

    " 'Doctors have lost the ability to set their own fees... ', he
     wrote. Marcus said the trend, if continued, could force 'the
     bending or outright sacrifice of principles and ethics that
     have become cornerstones of the American medical system.'

    "But Marcus admitted that physicians also are concerned about
     the loss of income, which he said should fall 'somewhere
     between that of a day laborer and Michael Jackson.'

    "Dr. Marcus concluded with the comment, 'We always keep the
     interest of the patient as paramount.'"
     -- Fred Bayles, Associated Press

As conservators, we are expected to always keep the interests of the
artifact as paramount.

And we are fond of comparing our practice to the practice of
medicine, especially surgery.

Medical doctors and lawyers are not licensed by their national
organizations, they are licensed to practice by state organizations.

AIC advocates a national repository for conservation treatment

Medical doctors in private practice retain their records. If they
die, their treatment records die with them, unless specific
provision is made. I learned this some years ago, to my dismay, when
my family doctor died.

I do not know what happens to legal files when a lawyer in private
practice dies or retires.

Now, I don't know if what I have written answers Jerry Podany's
question, but this is about as specific as I can be in this forum in
response to what I think his question was.

Well, maybe one example from the distant past to illuminate the
relationship between profession and income, without going through
the history of the craft union movement.

John Harvey, in his book, Mediaeval Craftsmen, relates that in the
year 1099, Conrad, Bishop of Utrecht, was "stabbed to death by his
master mason because he had learned a masonic craft secret...."

And I have not mentioned, until now, the issue of non-profit
conservation labs (esp. those within museums and libraries) taking
on work from the the private sector.  It is very difficult to
separate professionalism from money (indeed, it may be impossible)
but it is not difficult to separate the profession from money.

Sorry for the long posting.  I'd be happy to say more, but would
prefer a debate with people, not a modem.

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

                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:93
                   Distributed: Friday, May 15, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-11-93-004
Received on Friday, 15 May, 1998

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