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Subject: AIC


From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo>
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000
I would like to comment on the topics of: The AIC, Certification,
Publications, Training and Programs

The Philadelphia AIC meeting was one of the best I have attended,
both for the presentations and informal gatherings and exhibits.
However, there were some problems which continue to plague the
organization and are the source of division and discomfort. One is
the certification push. I spoke at the issues meeting again this
year against certification at this time and based my argument on one
of the two areas I have repeated over the past 10 years--the lack of
a body of organized and recognized knowledge. Every major
professional discipline which has produced professionals has
developed such a body of knowledge which is represented by textbooks
and/or manuals. It is a hallmark of the maturity of a discipline
that such works are routinely used in the field by practitioners and
drawn from to establish parameters for professional standards,
ethics and for examinations for professional standing.

Countering my argument, Terry Drayman-Weisser asserted that it was
difficult to produce textbooks for the conservation profession
because the field was changing so fast and methods and materials
were in flux. This seems untenable to me, I find it unbelievable
that conservation is so much more complex and changing than say,
medicine which yearly produces a flood of new texts for a multitude
of sub-disciplines and basic medical sciences. I have reviewed the
conservation literature in several publications in the past (JAIC,
1987 & BAICCM, 1989) so I will not go into detail here.
Nevertheless, I was happy to hear from Barbara Appelbaum that the
Kress Foundation will be accepting proposals for textbooks in the
upcoming round of grants.

The second part of my complaint concerns the lack of a body which
regulates the standards of training in the field, reviewing
curriculum and devising educational assessments of the programs and
apprenticeships. And there should be an effort to review and assess
the curriculum and training methods of both the programs and
apprenticeships which establishes these methods within the published
literature and standards of practices which can only come from
formal assessments of practice. In other words, a move toward
accreditation in conservation training is essential to
certification, and this should be a formal one developed within the
AIC and should include accreditation procedures for apprenticeships.
Such an effort [h]as accompanied other disciplines' efforts toward
professionalism (Mayor, 1965, Accreditation in Teacher Education). I
have in the past also mentioned the fact that the AIC should strive
to increase both its representation of conservators and restorers in
the USA in general, above the approximately 1 to 2% present estimate
(from my own figures made in the Bay Area) to at least 10% and
should increase the number of Fellows and P.A.s to at least 50%
before beginning certification. The cart is quite before the horse

The other problem I see with the AIC which appears at the meetings
is the pressure from the Board and the Publications Committee on the
specialty groups to influence them to apply peer-review and
editorial controls on their post and pre-print publications. This is
especially apparent with regard to the Book and Paper Group. If the
AIC purports to represent a professional discipline and not a craft
it must encourage its members to publish, make it easy for them to
do so and cost effective. For conservation to be recognized as a
professional organization its members should publish their methods
and those methods should reflect the standards of practice by the
preponderance of practitioners in the field. I do not know anyone
who would venture to assert that this is so today. To understand
what methods are currently practiced by the majority of conservators
and restorers, we need to do studies, to validate methods and to
show--with that ugly and often maligned science--statistics what
methods are scientifically proven to be durable and appropriate. We
have not met that standard yet. To do so conservators in the USA
would have to publish in one year what we have published in the last
10 for several years to produce a body of information on practice on
which we could build a reliable database. This is a huge task, but a
necessary one related to the issue of a recognized body of
knowledge. It must be built and built upon the practice of a vast
number of practitioners and objectively studied.

At present we have a multitude of people doing a tremendous amount
of work in public and private settings, creating innovations and
receiving little in the way of recognition and pay. While it is
appropriate that the AIC should work to raise the image and pay of
conservators the most prominent vehicle in the professions for
recognition is publication, publications have traditionally been the
major means of advancement assessment. Certainly in most
institutional settings those professionals who traditionally
supervise conservators (curators, directors, etc.) rely on
publications to advance their own careers. Therefore, the AIC should
not be making it more difficult for people to publish, rather it
should facilitate publication.

The Board could gain an economy of effort (2 birds with one stone)
by allowing applicants for Fellow and PA to substitute a
peer-reviewed article for one supporting fellow's endorsement
(especially useful for those conservators practicing outside of
metropolitan areas). I made this suggestion in San Diego and again
in St. Louis was told that it would be considered but that the rate
of Fellow and PA applications was improving.

Many conservators do not have the time to respond to editorial
criticism, and to provide rewritten texts. The idea of peer review
is a sound one, but not an infallible process as I pointed out in my
1998 letter in the AIC Newsletter. Additional questions of the
effects of peer review have been published by John Maddox (Nature,
v. 378, 1995:521) on the problem of confidentiality in grant
proposals and peer review or an article by Lawrence K. Altman (the
Lancet, v. 347, 5/25/96:1459-63) in which he relates the effect of
editorial and institutional restrictions on publication (including
peer review).

I think the AIC publication committee should concentrate on the JAIC
which continues to produce a very uneven product of marginal
interest to the membership at large or prospective new (and former)
members. While I have published in the Newsletter a study of the
JAIC authors (1998), my earlier criticism of the focus of articles
remains valid--few are on practical treatments (12.2%) of use to the
bench conservator, more are art historical in nature (15.1%) or of a
scientific nature with little direct application to conservation
practice (26.6%). Below I have given the results of my survey of the
JAIC which differs from Barbara Appelbaum's general assessment (AIC
Newsletter, 1997) in which she states that most of the conservation
literature is treatment oriented. I think the difference is that
Barbara was probably referring to the conservation literature in
general including the specialty groups and not the JAIC in
particular. It is my assessment that the groups' publications are
more treatment oriented although less so in recent years.

                                    JAIC  Article Survey
                             1978-1980       1981-1990   1991-2000
Art History                     4.5%            2.4%        13.8%
Conservation History            4.5%            4.8%         1.97%
Treatments                     45.4%           13.3%        11.8%
Preservation                    6.8%            6.1%        13.8%
Science/treatment oriented     15.9%           33.7%        21.7%
art history oriented           13.6%           33.7%        24.3%
Policy                          9.3%            6.0%        12.5%

Taken from the JAIC 1978 to 2000 dates chosen by availability of
journals in my laboratory. I understand that the categories may be
subjective but I invite anyone to restudy the issue and correct me
if I am wrong.

Most members (and practicing conservators and restorers who are not
members) I know, meet and correspond with, are more interested in
the useful nature of articles to their practice which appear in the
specialty groups. If we want to expand our membership we should
expand the practical value of our publications at the same time that
we build a body of literature which identifies methods which
characterize the professional practice of the discipline. I wonder,
however, what the response would be if the membership was given the
option of receiving the specialty publications free instead of the

There are dangers to the process of certification as Terry
Drayman-Weisser cogently noted in her remarks at the Issues Session
in Philadelphia (along with her argument concerning the benefits).
One of these is that in the process of discussing the reasons for
certification the public may begin to question the competence of the
field. This occurred during the period after the release of the
Conant Report on accreditation in higher education (Conant, 1963).
My intentions are not to undermine the issue of certification,
rather, to direct the efforts toward the necessary fundamental
aspects of professionalism upon which certification must be built.
Without such an edifice, further efforts toward certification will
only be divisive and fruitless.

Niccolo Caldararo
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:2
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 29, 2000
                        Message Id: cdl-14-2-002
Received on Thursday, 29 June, 2000

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