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Subject: Convergence of UK conservation organizations

Convergence of UK conservation organizations

From: Jane G. McAusland <janemca>
Date: Saturday, June 19, 2004
A Letter:  Ref:  Convergence

    When in 1976 the IPC broke away from the UKIC and established
    itself as an independent body, it did so in order better to
    serve its members, by providing them with information and a
    forum for discussion and the exchange of ideas. This took the
    form of its journal, newsletters, conferences, lectures and
    training events, and the IPC publications in particular are now
    essential reading for all conservators working in the field. It
    is these activities, the creations of its own members and funded
    by them, that have given the IPC its reputation and its
    international standing. Without these, the IPC would cease to
    offer the essential requirements of a specialist body. If,
    therefore, Convergence threatens the continued survival of any
    of these activities, it is our opinion that it will exact too
    high a price for its alleged benefits, and that, in addition,
    the new 'super institute' will simply recreate the situation
    with the UKIC in 1976, making it in due course necessary once
    again to establish an independent IPC.

    At the recent AGM, and in the literature preceding it,
    Convergence has been presented to us as a fait accompli, the
    only option; it has indeed been so presented to outside
    agencies, approached as sources of funding for the Convergence
    process, months in advance of the necessary vote of the
    membership, as if it were a foregone conclusion. It might be
    asked why the membership was not asked to vote on the
    desirability of Convergence before the IPC committee spent large
    sums of money employing Blue Spark Consulting.

    At the AGM, a one-sided and gloomy prediction was presented that
    the IPC could not continue in its present form. At the end of
    the meeting, however, the treasurer made it clear that the IPC
    could continue indefinitely as a scholarly body offering the
    services outlined above. It would seem therefore that what the
    chairman clearly meant was that the IPC could only continue on
    the path she (and presumably other members of the committee)
    wanted to see it take, a path which now includes yielding its
    funds and independence to an as yet ill-defined, all-embracing
    conservation body. It was proposed in the Consultation Document
    that such a body, in return for offering a single voice to
    government and wished-for but as yet unproven savings, would
    offer funds at its discretion for the activities which the IPC's
    members have enjoyed under their own control since its
    independence. The subsection of the new body allocated to book
    and paper conservators would, we are told, continue to be run
    largely, if not entirely, by volunteers, which assumes that
    volunteers (already in short supply) could still be found to
    work for an organisation over which they would have only limited

    At the AGM we were told that the fear of the secession of our
    substantial foreign membership (and the funds it brings with it)
    was unfounded, but no evidence was brought forward to support
    this assertion. Indeed many of the benefits promised the
    membership on convergence (including the hope that the
    government will be any more inclined to listen to the new
    super-body than to its individual components) seem at this stage
    to be based more on wishful thinking than on a realistic
    assessment of the costs of Convergence (not just financial, but
    also in terms of the services offered to the members of the
    specialist groups).

    The actual benefits of Convergence have not yet been made clear
    and certain questions remain unanswered. The IPC is an excellent
    institution that is internationally recognised and respected and
    provides much valued services to its members. What therefore
    would be the value of replacing it? Why exactly do we need to
    make savings, and will these savings be passed onto the
    membership in the form of reduced subscription rates or improved
    and extended services? If the latter, what are these services
    and who has decided that we need them? If the benefits of
    convergence are real, let those benefits be properly identified
    and costed and put to the membership as something to be put in
    place in addition to the services currently provided--not at the
    expense of those services.

    Let those who are proposing the creation of four full-time
    administrative posts especially if they are to be funded at the
    expense of those core activities, lay out in detail to us, the
    membership, the exact benefits they will provide to us in
    return. If those core services--and independent control over
    them--are lost, they will still need to be provided, something
    which can presumably only be done by an independent body formed
    to supply those services in competition with the newly created

    The major benefit put forward as the reason for creating the new
    super-institute has been the greater influence it will have on
    government decision-making. It is not yet clear, however, what
    the government is going to be asked to do, nor what the IPC has
    failed to receive as a result of not being a super-institute.
    The important question is whether the IPC has been refused the
    ear of government because it is too small and insignificant or
    because the benefits sought have been outside the government's
    own role in these matters. What most conservators would probably
    like to see is a level of pay that reflected their training and
    responsibilities, and many supported Accreditation in the hopes
    that improvements would follow.

    So far it would appear that Accreditation has not had any
    perceptible impact on salary levels, nor is there any indication
    that government action would have any effect on this. As the
    government is currently down-sizing national institutions,
    including our major museums, galleries and libraries, it is
    unlikely that salary rises are on the agenda. Independent
    institutions, of course, lie outside direct government control
    and can fix salaries at whatever level they choose, provided
    that they meet the national minimum wage. It is hard to see why
    they should feel obliged to listen to the super-institute any
    more than to its component parts. What then are we to ask the
    government for?

    The position of accredited conservators, and particularly of
    those who do not support Convergence, has also not been
    addressed in the literature that has been circulated. Should
    Convergence go ahead despite the protests of a sizeable
    proportion of its membership, the new body will presumably
    retain the right to remove accreditation from those members who
    might choose not to transfer their membership to the new body,
    but to remain as members of the 'original' IPC. In terms of a
    free vote, this is tantamount to coercion, and not dissimilar to
    the approach taken to force through Accreditation. It was
    generally agreed that a system capable of recognising and
    acknowledging good practice was desirable, and that if such a
    system were put in place, that it should be a prerequisite for
    obtaining work from national institutions and heritage groups.

    However, the system has in reality fallen far short of the
    standards that should have been achieved, especially with regard
    to the fast track system, but the coercive element remains,
    though the only real change noticeable to many members has been
    a large increase in their annual subscription. What guarantee do
    we have that Convergence will not repeat the same process? In
    any case, the sole right of the new body to offer accreditation
    to members of the IPC may need to be challenged.

    If Convergence can be shown to offer real benefits, we ask the
    committee to look for a federal structure in which the so-called
    'Vanguard Bodies' would retain their full independent control of
    their core activities. Options such as each of the groups
    contributing to a combined committee with specific
    administrative and lobbying functions need to be dispassionately
    examined and not rejected because existing models have not yet

    There has been no discussion, at least with the wider
    membership, of what, in the event of the new 'super body'
    failing, will happen to the IPC's assets, such as the library,
    and services, such as the Professional Indemnity insurance.
    These are critical matters for the membership and need to be
    resolved before a vote is taken.

    Finally, however, if the IPC committee decide that Convergence
    cannot go ahead without either eliminating or diminishing the
    core services, or putting them at serious risk, we, the
    undersigned, will not be able to support it. We will then retain
    the right to look for alternative means of supplying them.

    Lisu Adye ACR MICP
    Paper Conservator in Private Practice

    A. Jean E. Brown ACR MICP
    Senior Lecturer, Conservation of Fine Art, Northumbria

    Christopher Clarkson ACR MICP
    Book Conservator in Private Practice

    Caroline Dick ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice, Geneva

    Sophia Fairclough ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice

    Graeme Gardiner ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice

    Dr. Judith Gowland ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice

    Dr Nicholas Hadgraft ACR MICP
    Book Conservator in Private Practice

    Helen Loveday ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice

    Olivier Masson ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice, Zurich

    Jane McAusland ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice and Founder
    Member of the IPC

    Dr. Nicholas Pickwoad ACR MICP
    Book Conservator in Private Practice and Founder Member of
    the IPC

    Cheryl Porter Paper
    Conservator in Private Practice

    Clare Prince ACR MICP
    Book Conservator in Private Practice

    Catherine Rickman ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice

    Phillip Stevens ACR MICP
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice and Founder
    Member of the IPC

    Sylvia Sumira ACR MICP
    Globe Conservator in Private Practice

    Deborah Willis
    Art on Paper Conservator in Private Practice

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:3
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 24, 2004
                        Message Id: cdl-18-3-001
Received on Saturday, 19 June, 2004

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