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Subject: Unpaid positions

Unpaid positions

From: Laurie Booth <mwestcons>
Date: Thursday, December 3, 1998
In response to Becky Cameron and Victoria Bunting's comments about
the current availability of conservation jobs, and the pay
structure, I would like to add a few comments.

I agree that clearly there are fewer jobs available in the museum
sector these days, particularly in the paintings and paper
specialties.  Many of us know conservators who have left the field
because of their frustration with the lack of jobs, and the stagnant
salary situation.  It seems clear that after several decades,
conservation is "catching-up" with the other museum specialties in
regard to an over-supply of candidates willing to work for meager
wages.  Conservators have long been the envy of their curatorial

However, I see the current situation in a rather different light.
As an objects conservator in private practice in a less "popular"
region (Columbus, Ohio) I have actually been disappointed with the
number of job applicants that have contacted me after recent job
postings.  I know that many of my colleagues in private practice
have experienced similar problems.  I worked for many years in the
museum sector and understand the desire of conservators to work in
the top museums.  I would like to point out, however, that there
have been many positions in the less "desirable" museums and areas
that attract little interest.  In many regards, I think this
situation parallels the medical profession, where traditionally it
has been difficult to recruit physicians to fill GP positions in
rural or inner-city areas.

I strongly believe that the graduate training programs need to
emphasize to their students (and prospective students)  that jobs in
the top art museums, particularly on the coasts, are limited.
Students need to be aware that the growth sector in conservation now
is in the smaller art museums, historical societies, regional
centers, and, particularly, in the private sector.  If students are
unwilling or uninterested in working in these areas, then they
should expect to encounter difficulties with their job search and
probably also with the salary level.

I have worked for the last ten years building a private practice
here in central Ohio.  I do not miss working in a museum
environment.  I have many museum clients and far more work than I
can handle at the moment.  I think conservators need to understand
that many museums do not see the need for a dedicated conservation
department, and have relied, for many years, on the regional centers
and on conservators in private practice.  It is unrealistic to
expect these institutions to hire conservators on staff.

I agree with Victoria that the training programs need to emphasize
grant writing and marketing, along with other business skills.  But
there are a growing number of permanent, full-time jobs available in
existing private practices, many established by graduates of the
training programs, with benefits and other perks.

Just a little food for thought.

Laurie Booth
President/Objects Conservator
Midwest Conservation Services, Inc.
Director, CIPP

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:50
                 Distributed: Tuesday, December 8, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-50-004
Received on Thursday, 3 December, 1998

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