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Subject: Professional qualifications

Professional qualifications

From: Joan Marie Reifsnyder <jmreif>
Date: Saturday, February 6, 1999
I, too as others, read Niccolo Caldararo's 1 Feb thoughts with great
interest. I'm not sure that it helps, but U.S. conservators are not
alone.  Here in Italy there is a similar 'catch-22' situation in
terms of those of us who train and educate young conservators, but
cannot ourselves 'qualify' for entrance into some of the same State
positions or schools that they can.

In fact, in many European countries there is a 'degree-based' rather
than a 'proficiency/skills-based' preference.  In an attempt to
address this schism there have been a couple of European-wide
initiatives; as well as the well-known (I hope on the other side of
the Atlantic) accreditation studies and proposals that the UKIC has
undertaken, and which now seem to be at a very concrete point . (see
the UKIC mirror under CoOL)

On a European-wide basis, the group E.C.C.O. (European Confederation
of Conservator-Restorers' Organizations--see CoOL
<URL:>) a number of years
ago initiated the exploration into at least some type of
standardization (which is also greatly lacking).  Their solution
seems to be founded however, once again, in the school and degree as
a qualification base.  A similar educational standard, level and
course-work throughout Europe would certainly contribute positively
to a future professional tadpole pond. However, that is just the
point: no matter how great the potential, still tadpoles needing
both time and experience.  And what about the thousands of European
conservator-restorers with just excellent long-term experience, or a
degree from the 'wrong' program and excellent long-term experience?
We have to remember that for the past two centuries in Europe the
"restorer" was (and in many areas still is) considered as artisan or
a craftsperson. In Italy for example, most State employed
conservator-restorers do not have a university degree, principally
due to the fact that there have not been any conservation training
programs developed within a university structure. (There are of
course exceptions: in the field of architecture there have a number
of universities offering theoretical conservation courses.  However,
these are not usually courses  that teach the consolidation of
stone, or the application of poultices for cleaning architectural
facades.  Another exception--and perhaps the only one--is the very
recent Textile Conservation course that is part of the Art History
concentration in the Liberal Arts Faculty at the University of
Florence).  Formal education for a State-employed restorer in Italy
(read State-employed as: museum conservator) historically ended
either with the 5th grade, the 9th grade, (depending on the age of
mandatory education during that period) or as is more the norm
today,  the equivalent to high school + a year or two.  There are
hundreds of professional, highly ethical conservators (over the age
of 25) who fall between the cracks and still must be addressed.

As proposed by E.C.C.O., a similar educational training level (ie.
university) throughout the European Community would be a start.  The
other important European-wide initiative seems to address precisely
the more persistent aspect of this problem: professional standards
and accreditation. The FULCO project is in the process of trying to
promote the discussion of verifiable, transparent professional
standards tied to an accreditation process.  Quite an undertaking,
but one that seems to be making progress. (My last contact with
FULCO was in November when I was asked to review the FULCO
discussion paper on "A Framework for Competence for
Conservators-Restorers in Europe" and give my comments.  Best person
to give more information and up-dates on this is the organizer:
Steph Scholten, Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage at
ncn [at] icn__nl)

Niccolo Caldararo's final sentences in his 5 Feb. comments speak
exactly to this: a call for an international evaluation of training
goals and professional standards, competence and accreditation.
Systems and languages may be different, but we all seem to be
confronted with similar concerns and future considerations.

Let's keep on talking.

Joan Marie Reifsnyder
The Florence Conservation and Resource Center.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:65
                 Distributed: Tuesday, February 9, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-65-003
Received on Saturday, 6 February, 1999

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