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Subject: SCMRE


From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo>
Date: Sunday, April 22, 2001
This is in response to the post by Bert van Zelst concerning the CAL
(Conservation Analytic Laboratory) in its current configuration as
SCMRE. The closing of the SCMRE (CAL) is a terrible blow to the
conservation field. The seeds of this, however, were sown by the
present administration which attempted to steer the former CAL from
its historic role as a research center directed to the needs of
bench conservators to solve practical problems to preserve our
nation's heritage, to that of the SCMRE as a center for materials
research into archaeological and historical purposes.

The confusion of what the future role of CAL should be is evident in
the pages of Dr. van Zelst's Memos to the Advisory Committee on the
CAL in 1996 and in the Committee Reports developed from 1995-97 and
the Briefing Paper on the CAL dated August 1997.  The mission of the
CAL is described as confused and undirected and the outcome of this
was to change the name of CAL to SCMRE to orient the Lab from a
mundane one to one more glamorous and perhaps more involved in
discovery.  The failure to promote the truly practical work of the
laboratory and to bring in new funding to support new needed
initiatives in research must be set squarely on the management of
the Smithsonian.  As I have written in the past about the lack of
leadership in the development of a national plan for the
preservation of our nation's cultural property, I will not comment
on that aspect, however, the fact is that the CAL staff have played
leadership roles in the past. One example is that of Robert Organ
who argued for a strong NIC that would chart out needs and formulate
planning so that funds could be raised to address needs within a
coherent system.

While the CAL was being dismantled and the SCMRE developed no new
organization has taken the place of the CAL.  No other institution
has routinely conducted the basic research into conservation methods
and treatment development like the CAL and none  have been so
successful in meeting the needs of bench conservators across this
land.  It will be a tragedy if the SCMRE closes, but it would best
if the old CAL were returned to us, as the vigorous laboratory it
once was.  I cannot imagine a worse time for this to occur, when so
many museums have directed their conservation staff to concentrate
on private work, to limit research and to reduce treatment
developments.  We need the CAL, we need it more than ever.

Niccolo Caldararo, Ph.D.
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service
Adjunct Professor
Department of Anthropology
San Francisco State University

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:56
                  Distributed: Monday, April 23, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-56-003
Received on Sunday, 22 April, 2001

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