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Subject: Accreditation


From: David Harvey <top10dave>
Date: Tuesday, May 18, 1999
I have been  following this thread with interest. It is unfortunate
that there appears to be an artificially introduced USA / European
dichotomy in the discussion. I think that the experiences of our
European and Canadian colleagues are instructive to all concerned.

I find myself agreeing with an earlier posting by Janet Hesseling in
regards to the underlying purposes of accreditation. Some of the
more vocal respondents have emphasized the accreditation physicians
and lawyers. I would just observe that it is in the public interest,
and in the interest of governments, to license those professions who
can affect both your longevity and your freedom. There is a public
consensus in regards to the issues of professional competence within
those professions. Yes, those professions are self-regulating to a
degree, but there are also special legal protections & liabilities
related just to those professions.

As Janet rightly observed the AIC has had difficulty with membership
issues. One significant problems has been in getting associate
members to become professional associates. If the purpose of
accreditation is to make every practitioner join how can that
succeed when there are many examples of competent colleagues who
choose to have nothing to do with the AIC?

There is a consciousness within the body politic of the public that
the "cleaning" of old objects is something that can be done with a
few supplies from the hardware store and the right recipe. If one
doesn't want to get one's hands dirty you can always find someone
who "restores" objects for reasonable prices.  The point is that
professional conservators are supported by those few in the public
and in institutions who are educated enough about their objects to
have at least a modicum of ethics and a sense of responsibility
about how they should be treated, and, they are able to seek out and
pay for the services of a professional. Anyone, anywhere, in America
can call themselves a conservator, or a restorer, and hang out their
shop sign, and they have a perfectly legal right to do so. Given
this current state of consciousness within the public I really doubt
that accreditation will have any effect on wages in the profession
as a whole. So what then, is the purpose of accreditation? It
strikes me that to some it may be philosophy of exclusion from the
profession--at least from institutional practice. To others is may
be an honest pursuit of standards equally applied across the field.
But then, who sets the standards and how are they fairly applied and
evaluated? All of these are thorny issues that are reflected within
the current debate. I would think that one key element in any effort
to accredit such a diverse field as conservation is that one should
be able to produce letters of support from one's colleagues, whether
you are university or apprentice trained. One should also be able,
upon request, to produce documentation of the assessment, methods &
materials, undertaken on a range of treatments over the span of a

It seems to me that the focus on accreditation seems rather myopic
and parochial when compared with the vastly larger issue of
inculcating within the general public an understanding of the ethics
and responsibilities of the ownership of art and historic objects. A
significant paradigm can be seen in the environmental movement. Some
of us remember when litter populated the highways, factories dumped
wastes wholesale into rivers and skies, and resources were seen as
things to be exploited rather than responsibly conserved.

That was thirty years ago and now environmentalism is taught to
school children. The public now has an such an understanding of
responsible stewardship that recycling is commonplace. I think that
it would make great good sense for the AIC and UKIC to form a
relationship with popular shows such as "Antiques Roadshow". Perhaps
featuring local conservators and basic conservation information
could be a regular two minute feature of every show. That would do
more to educate the public as to the importance of the profession
than any set of initials one could add to the end of a name on a
business card.

David Harvey
Metals & Arms Conservator
Williamsburg, Virginia  USA

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:89
                  Distributed: Thursday, May 20, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-12-89-008
Received on Tuesday, 18 May, 1999

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