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Subject: Certification


From: Toddy Glaser <toddy>
Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2002
As a member of the Certification Task Force, I welcome thoughtful
discussion of this important topic. In the last few days this list
and that of the Object Specialty Group have published several well
considered statements by people who plan not to vote for
certification as well as some in favor of certification. Rather than
responding to the nay-sayers myself, I have pasted below the
comments by Terry Weisser, Chair of the Certification Taskforce,
which appeared on the OSG list. These are sent with her knowledge
and permission. In my opinion, Terry speaks for all of us on the

Here are Terry Weisser's remarks:

    First, a note of thanks to George Wheeler, who got people really
    thinking about certification. He and others have made many good
    points, but I am not certain that I agree with all of them. As
    chair of the AIC Certification Task Force I will address a few
    of them here.

    Although I can understand that taking the AIC News articles on
    their own may give the impression that only one side of the
    certification issue has been addressed, I want to assure you
    that the certification task force has actively sought
    information on certification and comments from the members,
    regardless of perspective.  We have held issues sessions at the
    last several AIC annual meetings where significant time was
    devoted to comments from the membership, both pro and con. We
    had a panel discussion where presenters represented different
    views on certification.  The issues sessions were very well
    attended and very active discussions took place.  And I can
    assure you that we did not "plant" any commentators.

    Although there were some concerns brought up at the issues
    sessions (the "down side" as some have called it), most of the
    comments were positive and encouraging about proceeding with
    certification.  At one session there was a great deal of
    discussion surrounding the possible additional liability for
    conservators that might follow certification.  For the next
    session we brought in a special speaker to address this and also
    had him write an article for the AIC News. This was not to put a
    positive light on the issue, it was to examine the facts and not
    be persuaded by rumor or misinformation.

    At the issues sessions we took straw polls to determine whether
    we should continue to investigate certification.  The results of
    each poll were overwhelmingly positive (almost unanimous). In
    fact, we had a number of suggestions to proceed with a program
    immediately and to stop delaying.  It was the task force's
    decision to go slowly so that there would be ample time for
    concerns to be addressed.  We tried to examine the concerns
    raised at each issues session in the programs of the following
    issues sessions and in the AIC News.  Although there is nothing
    in the bylaws that requires a vote on certification, the AIC
    Board has wisely decided that the entire membership should be
    able to make this important decision.

    Body Of Knowledge

    George Wheeler and others have commented here on the lack of a
    body of knowledge for our profession as a stumbling block to
    developing a certification program.  Similar concerns were
    brought up at the issues sessions.  To address this, AIC
    established a task force on qualifications, which should guide
    us in developing a body of knowledge, hopefully through the
    specialty groups, educators, and others.  This may take time,
    but developing a certification program will also take time.
    There is no reason that the two cannot be developed
    concurrently. Keep in mind that the initial certification
    program being proposed is general, not specialty specific.  The
    body of knowledge we should share across all specialties is not
    that far out of reach.  As specialty groups develop and approve
    their own bodies of knowledge, specialty certification can be
    added at a later time.

    George Wheeler used the medical profession as an example of a
    field with a body of knowledge. In my opinion, a body of
    knowledge in an active profession must remain dynamic. Certainly
    the body of knowledge for the medical profession in 1900 looked
    strikingly different from that of today. And their body of
    knowledge of today will undoubtedly look very different from
    that of 5 years from now.  So we will wait forever for
    certification in our profession if we think everything must be
    settled for the long term.

    Certification vs Membership Categories

    In Laura Gorman's recent posting she states: "I think we all
    know conservators who are AIC Fellows and PAs who we do not
    respect, professionally.  How were they able to get designated?
    What's to prevent this from happening with the new program?"
    Although no program is going to be perfect and there will always
    be differences of opinion about who is qualified, certification,
    coupled with a re-certification program, compels us to keep
    abreast of the changes brought about by enhanced knowledge, new
    materials and technology, new insights, and greater
    understanding of concepts.  Therefore, even if someone
    "unqualified" (who will practice with or without a certification
    program) manages to pass the certification examination, if
    he/she does not demonstrate continued involvement in
    professional improvement, he/she will not be re-certified. Our
    current situation allows us to receive and retain a professional
    membership designation by meeting certain basic levels of
    training and experience without any impetus to improve or even
    to maintain current standards in the profession.  While I think
    membership categories are important and should be retained as a
    measure of peer recognition and to honor contributions to the
    field, they are not a substitute for certification.


    Some here have brought up the cost of a certification program.
    The cost of developing a certification program is a very
    important consideration.  It will require resources beyond what
    is available to us in our current budget. However, there are
    grants and other funding opportunities available to us that can
    defray some of the major costs of developing a program. It can
    be assumed that no Board is going to proceed with the
    development of a program without knowing where the funding will
    come from.  So development of a program will be linked to the
    availability of adequate funding.  If AIC takes on the
    responsibility of running a program, there also will be the
    on-going costs that were listed in the AIC News.  For the most
    part, these costs must be covered by the revenues generated by
    the program.  For the program to be successful, fees must not
    exceed what is reasonable for practitioners in our profession.
    The fee for sitting for a certification exam is likely to be in
    the $100-300 range, while periodic re-certification, based on
    documentation of professional activities, will be less than the
    exam-based fee.

    I hope the debate that has begun on certification continues and
    that all members will express their final opinions by voting on
    this important issue.

    Terry Drayman-Weisser
    Chair, Certification Task Force

Initiating a certification program will not be easy and may require
grant funding. Still, I believe it's high time we got started. We
are a young profession, but we have grown in the 20 years since we
experimented with certification. As Terry points out, there is now a
qualifications taskforce to guide us in developing a body of
knowledge. Doing so will take time and so will certification, but
that's all the more reason for starting. Why wait any longer?

One of the strongest arguments for a certification program, in my
opinion, is the provision for re-certification. We all know someone
who went through a program and got a prestigious job only to sit
back and rarely appear at AIC meetings or professional seminars. To
be a dynamic and effective profession we must encourage, if not
require, our members to participate, share, and keep abreast of new

It's time to take the next steps. Though we may wobble at first, we
will be moving forward.

Mary Todd Glaser
Director of Paper Conservation
Northeast Document Conservation Center
100 Brickstone Square
Andover, MA 01810
978-470-1010, ext. 228
Fax: 978-475-6021

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:36
               Distributed: Wednesday, November 27, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-16-36-001
Received on Tuesday, 26 November, 2002

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