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Subject: Active participation in DistList

Active participation in DistList

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Tuesday, June 16, 1998
Barbara Appelbaum <aandh [at] idt__net> writes

>In answer to my recent urging for more people to "speak up" on line,
>I received the following.
> ...
>   "It is possible that many people are in my position. Conservators
>    at my institution are strongly discouraged from contributing
>    publicly to the list.

This is nothing new.  Over the past 25 years I have visited
conservation labs throughout the US, Canada, and a few in the UK,
and have learned that it is not uncommon for institutional labs to
operate under this constraint. I have also visited institutional
labs where conservators were *forbidden* to do documentation.  In no
small part, it is this attitude on the part of institutions which is
responsible for my opposition to any movement by AIC to force
certification on its membership at this time.

As a private conservator, I have uncovered information in the course
of treatment which a museum director told me to forget (I *forgot*
but the slides are on file...); during the early years of my
practice many clients tossed a detailed treatment report into the
garbage can on their way out the lab; now they have to pay extra for
the report.  Institutional clients and dealers have been more likely
to do this than private collectors.  For some years now, my
treatment proposal has included the following words:

    "The above proposal is accepted and the Thompson Conservation
    Laboratory is hereby authorized to carry out the above proposed
    treatment, subject to all the following terms and conditions.

    "Objects brought or forwarded to the Thompson Conservation
    Laboratory are at the sole risk of the depositor at all times.

    "The depositor hereby waives and releases any and all claims
    which may hereafter arise for damage to or loss of or related to
    such objects, however occasioned, and whether or not due to the
    negligence or default of the Laboratory.  In consideration of
    the furnishing of requested transcripts of records of
    examination and treatment, reports or opinions concerning
    objects, the depositor agrees to indemnify the Laboratory from
    any and all liability in the event of any claim by any other
    person based in any way upon the rendition of such records,
    reports or opinions, and further agrees that such transcripts,
    reports or opinions are intended to be used for scientific and
    educational purposes only.

    "The written and photographic documentation of this (these)
    artifact(s) is the property of the Thompson Conservation
    Laboratory and may be used for educational, research, analytical
    and statistical purposes at the sole discretion of the Thompson
    Conservation Laboratory.

    "If a summary report, at a cost of $25.00 is desired, please
    check here: [   ].

    "A complete copy of all documentation will be provided for a
    further additional fee upon application by the owner or
    responsible party."

A few years ago, at a conservation conference in Canada, one of the
directors of CCI presented a paper relevant to this subject.

An art dealer from New York City had a collection of Jacobean silver
to sell and was flogging it to a Canadian museum.  The museum sent
the collection to CCI for authentication.  CCI determined that the
collection was bogus.  The museum returned the collection to the
dealer with CCI's report.

The dealer's attorney informed CCI that if they published the
information they would be sued.  CCI checked with a Canadian
government attorney and learned that they could lose a law suit
based on their expert examination and interpretation of the data.

Thereafter, CCI notified all Canadian museums that might likely
purchase Jacobean silver that they might be offered this collection
and to contact them if they were thinking about purchasing the

The director who gave the report told us that he traveled to each
institution who contacted them and showed them the CCI evaluation of
the silver.  It was not published, as such.  And the collection was
not sold to a Canadian institution.

So far as I know.

So, there are many conservators, members of AIC, Fellows,
Professional Associates, Associates, who are working as conservators
in institutional settings which forbid them, as a term of their
employment, to document their work.  And AIC would certify them.
They give lip service to the AIC Code of Ethics, and they cash their

For what it's worth, I changed my treatment proposal form to include
the language noted above in the late 1970's and NOT ONE SINGLE
TREATMENT REPORT! And damned few private clients.

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

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:4
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 18, 1998
                        Message Id: cdl-12-4-005
Received on Tuesday, 16 June, 1998

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