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Subject: Certification


From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo>
Date: Friday, December 6, 2002
Like most of you, I have received my ballot to vote on
certification.  Since I have been concerned about this issue for
many years, I feel it is important that AIC members consider this
issue carefully.  While I think it was helpful that the AIC
Newsletter printed articles by Podany and Weisser in the latest
issue and provided a list of others who are mainly in support of
certification, It was unfortunate that they did not include articles
which have appeared in the Newsletter and in other venues by myself
and people like Jack Thompson who have been critical of

Perhaps the central point in my continued reservation to
certification is the rush.  Certification should proceed after a
field has reached a point of critical review and maturity where it
has produced a large number of theoretical works, reviews of methods
and especially textbooks which define and characterize the
discipline.  We have only begun to achieve this.  We have few
textbooks at all and, though the IIC has just begun a journal
devoted to reviews of methods, these are demonstrating by their form
and limitations the lack of a comprehensive critical literature or
even an agreed methodology for understanding what is the goal of
practice or success in treatments.  In his new book Caple has
achieved a good start in this process and I urge everyone who can to
get a copy of this book.  It think it can be a starting point for
the creation of such a methodology.

A second point which concerns me is why now?  What are we trying to
certify and what ends are we trying to achieve?  There are other
organizations for conservators and  restorers to join, like the
Antique Restorers of America.  Some of these organizations provide
referrals like the AIC, access to literature through their web site,
like the AIC, web pages for their members, all at a cost less that
AIC membership.  What can the AIC certification provide members with
that these organizations cannot?  It seems to me that the arguments
over improved public regard, especially when the AIC used
accountants as an example is surely defunct now and rather ludicrous
in retrospect considering Enron, etc.  But even the comparison with
medicine is problematic.  Doctors demonstrated over the 19th century
the success of their methods (allopathic, and "Heroic" medicine)
over other forms, some like Homeopathy still in existence today.
They did so by association with emergent science and the antiseptic
conditions invented in the hospital.  This provided the basis for a
comparison with other forms of medicine which resulted in licensing.
This then led to governmental sanction on the practice of medicine.
Later it led to massive lawsuits for malpractice as the body of
literature which medicine had produced provided the lawyers with
standards to hold practitioners to in daily outcomes.  Is this what
we want?  Certification is an idea that seems like an attractive
goal, but it requires us to decide if conservation is a craft or a
science and to separate those practices and people in a deliberate
and finite way which are acceptable or not.  This means going
farther than the existing code of ethics, it means clearly and
definitively saying what practices and methods are not acceptable
and which are.  Are we ready to do that?  I think not and I will
vote against this premature effort.  Certainly there will come a
time in the future when we will have reached this point, but let us
do the work now to make that transition set on a firm an d
understandable foundation.

Niccolo Caldararo
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:39
                Distributed: Tuesday, December 10, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-16-39-016
Received on Friday, 6 December, 2002

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