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Subject: Accreditation


From: C. Velson Horie <c.v.horie>
Date: Saturday, May 15, 1999
Mr Thomson says that he is an "old English major".  I had initially
assumed from his comments that he is a retired member of the British
army (we have several such in UK conservation).  But now I have my
doubts.  Is he referring to a US academic background?  Such is the
confusion of undefined terminology.

A large section of the conservation community in the UK have come to
the conclusion that there is a sufficient body of excellent
practitioners, a body of knowledge and the need for assurance of
standards by the public for a professional status to be achieved.
This conclusion has been reached in many other countries which are
similarly aspiring towards public acceptance of the "conservation
profession".  There are naturally many similarities between the
moves in various countries, but there are also significant
differences which need to be recognised when comparisons are made.

There is a respectable counter argument that a conservator should
not pretend to be a professional, but is more akin to the artist or
craftsman, whose individuality and creativity is more important than
compliance with a external standard.  A comparable argument exists
between the medical profession and some alternative healers.  They
have to agree to differ.

The system we in JAG are creating is to address the situation in the
UK. Conservators come into the field from a plethora of backgrounds,
from pure science, the humanities, arts, crafts and amateurism and
with all levels of skills and attitudes.  There are now many
training courses of widely varying standards.  It is practically
impossible to tell from someone's curriculum vitae if that person is
(or is capable of) acting in a professional manner.  The situation
may be different in other countries.  In due course, training
courses in the UK will probably be validated as approved entry to
the conservation profession, but that must await the definition and
operation of a professional body with enough influence to make its
judgements widely accepted.

The system that has gone out for consultation
<URL:> allows for all these routes.  All
those who are interested in the detail of the scheme should consult
the documents, in order to save space here.  The scheme insists that
all who are accredited reach minimum standards over a number of
functional standards (such as "Examine and describe items") and
professional criteria (such as "Demonstrating sensitivity to the
cultural context of materials and the values of people").  The
wording and assessment of these standards are being chosen to apply
to all specialisms of conservation.  The consultation and trials of
the draft documents have provided confirmation that most of the
detail is workable, though some textual changes will be needed
before they are finalised. I am sure that these documents will
continue to evolve, as with every other profession.

At the end of the process of accreditation or discipline, one
professional judges another professional.  For reasons of justice
and acceptance, the process must be open to audit.  The quality of
the profession and its standing with clients and public will depend
on its self-confidence and rigour in carrying out the process.

Velson Horie
Keeper of Conservation
The Manchester Museum
The University
M13 9PL
+44 161 275 2656
Fax: +44 161 275 2674

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:88
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 18, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-88-016
Received on Saturday, 15 May, 1999

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