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Subject: SCMRE


From: David Grattan <david_grattan>
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2001
This letter has been prepared on behalf of ICOM.CC regarding SCMRE.
ICOM.CC regards the loss of SCMRE as a sign of a continuing erosion
of conservation services that has been seen in many countries.

    Lawrence M. Small
    Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
    Smithsonian Institution
    100 Jefferson Drive, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20560

    April 24, 2001

    Dear Secretary Small,

    I am writing this letter with respect to the recently-announced
    decision to close the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research
    and Education. In recent years the Committee for Conservation of
    the International Council of Museums has become increasingly
    concerned about the erosion of conservation services. In 1999
    ICOM.CC International Council of Museums--Committee for
    Conservation. {An international organization of Museum
    professionals specializing in Museum conservation and
    restoration <URL:>} commissioned a world
    wide survey of our members on this question.  It was clear at
    that time, that many countries had seen a reduction in their
    capacity to deliver conservation services--including both
    treatment and research. This is not a healthy trend as it may
    begin to jeopardize the survival of cultural heritage. And it is
    increasingly clear that the loss of heritage is gaining momentum
    through many factors, such as war, neglect, pollution, lack of
    resources, ignorance, tourism, economic pressures etc.
    Complicating and compounding these losses are the issues
    surrounding modern complex materials and media which represent
    the achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Most countries,
    including the United States  have immense investments in
    heritage. This investment contributes to the quality of life,
    the economy and to the well being and stability of society.
    Scientific work to understand the preservation of our heritage
    is vital to its preservation. The knowledge of how to preserve
    has been gained through the scientific work or organizations
    such as SCMRE. Hence within ICOM.CC we are worried about the
    impact its loss will have. SCMRE and its predecessor the
    Conservation Analytical lab. developed an enviable reputation
    for the quality and quantity of research . It was one of only a
    handful of dedicated organizations throughout the World which
    has been active in this emerging area and its loss will be felt
    by colleagues throughout the World.  Conservation research has
    only fairly recently begun to flourish. It is rare to find
    scientists who understand how to study historically accurate
    materials and apply modern techniques of analysis. An
    organization which has the critical mass and expertise to
    seriously advance conservation knowledge is even rarer. SCMRE
    was such an organization and has a major contributor to the
    advancement of conservation knowledge.

    For example, where else would research on the conservation of
    Space suits {Mary Baker's work has become internationally known
    and appreciated. The space suits are surely important heritage
    items of the 20th century?} have been facilitated. Such is the
    rareness of the practical integration of science and
    conservation, one cannot conceive of any other organization that
    could have done this work.

    SCMRE has also played an important role internationally through
    the Bibliographic Conservation Information Network. SCMRE was a
    partner with the ICCROM Center in Rome, The Canadian
    Conservation Institute in Ottawa, and the Getty Conservation
    Institute in California. Unfortunately, the Getty Conservation
    Institute has decided to withdraw from this partnership in order
    to develop its own bibliographic service. I think that the
    demise of SCMRE almost certainly means the end of meaningful US
    partnership in this vital program. It will be left to the two
    remaining partners to somehow carry on this vital program which
    allows access of conservators throughout the world access to
    published material..

    While I understand the need to reassess programs and reorganize
    to improve delivery of service, I also see an important need for
    the kind of service that SCMRE was designed to offer. Within
    ICOM.CC we hope that if SCMRE is beyond saving that a successor
    organization will developed to fulfill the important role to
    further the preservation of heritage within the USA and to
    partner with other similar organizations in other countries.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Grattan
    Chair ICOM Committee for Conservation

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:57
                  Distributed: Friday, April 27, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-57-002
Received on Tuesday, 24 April, 2001

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