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Subject: AIC certification plan

AIC certification plan

From: Joanna S. Pietruszewski <aegisrestauro<-a>
Date: Monday, December 8, 2008
Based on its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, the AIC is the
organization of professional conservators. As such organization its
goal is to represent the professional conservators, advocate on
their behalf, and in general create an environment for advancement
of the profession. This goal is quite different from certifying the
individual conservators and actually judging their competence. In
the recent post by Paul Messier on behalf of the CITF there are
several comments clearly stating the existing relationship between
the AIC and its members:

>To reiterate: there is a very clear distinction between status
>within AIC as a membership organization and competent professional
>... Membership categories and
>certification must be distinguishable and meaningful. Certification
>is very specifically about knowledge and skill, whereas membership
>is about participation within a profession and a professional
>organization. ...

By planning the certification process the AIC aims at changing the
current relationship between itself and its members from helping and
promoting to governing and controlling. I oppose this plan because I
have difficulty understanding the purpose of such transformation.

There are several main arguments being quoted in support of the
certification (quotes from Paul Messier's letter):

>The AIC Certification program is intended to ascertain an
>individual's ability to make appropriate decisions as a conservation
>professional without supervision. It is a measure of the
>conservator's thought processes in relation to the AIC Code of
>Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, and is not intended as a tool to
>influence individual conservation treatments.

The professional competence of the trained conservators has already
been established when they successfully completed their program in
the conservation. I would argue that such evaluation must be
considered by any standard superior in its complexity to the
proposed model of the certification making it seem irrelevant.

>By granting equivalent membership status to conservators of all
>educational backgrounds, the PA program has indeed done a great deal
>to level the playing field between program and non-program trained
>conservators.  PA status provides a means for those without academic
>training in conservation to demonstrate their basic understanding of
>the underlying principles of the profession and a recognized ability
>to comply with the CoE and GfP.  The significant difference is that
>the certification process will allow the applicant to demonstrate
>emphatically and objectively what he/she knows, regardless of where,
>how, or with whom it was learned.
>It is true that AIC membership status has gradually been worked into
>RFPs for conservation services. This trend is the result of the void
>left from the days when it was more common for employers to require
>that applicants have a degree from a recognized conservation
>program.  AIC has been very active in this regard; attempting to
>make clear that there should be no discrimination against
>apprentice-trained conservators.  From the perspective of a
>prospective employer, certification will rectify this situation, as
>the current model is designed to provide applicants a means of
>demonstrating skills and understanding of the underlying principles
>of the philosophy of conservation, as well as how one can solve
>complex problems and execute a well-thought out treatment proposal,
>regardless of how they were educated or trained.

I have a real difficulty understanding the meaning of this
particular argument. I have studied again the Articles of
Incorporation of the AIC, Bylaws, Definitions, Code of Ethics, and
Commentaries to the Guidelines to find an explanation. All of these
documents state very clearly that the purpose of the organization is
among others to ".advance knowledge of improved methods of art
conservation and restoration" (Third Article of Incorporation) and
that "the conservation professional shall strive to attain the
highest possible standards in all aspects of conservation." (I, Code
of Ethics). The Preamble to the Code of Ethics defines in its first
paragraph the conservation professional as an "individual with
extensive training and special expertise". In this context how does
leveling all types of conservation education represent the quest for
highest standards? If the certification is designed to mask the
differences between academically trained conservators and those with
alternative training I perceive it as lowering the standards in the
name of political correctness.

>The current PA and Fellow application processes are not any form of
>accreditation. They do not supply credentials, but merely designate
>membership levels based on years of education/training, experience,
>and contributions to AIC. The AIC Professional Associate program
>initially was meant to assess service to the field and adherence to
>the Code of Ethics and did not include submission of documentation
>reports. ...

In the Commentary 4e-Advertising (Commentaries to the Guidelines) it
is stated that

   "The use of membership in AIC as a professional credential is
    encouraged as a way to distinguish professional practitioners,
    but limited to those in the Professional Associate and Fellow
    membership categories, because these members have demonstrated
    appropriate educational preparation and experience.."

These two excerpts clearly contradict each other. According to the
full context of all the formal AIC documents mentioned in the item 2
above, the organization was willing to endorse the Professional
Associates and Fellows as the professional categories acknowledged
through the process of verification of the background, required
submittals and peer references. Why is this particular context being
changed now?

Many of the arguments offered as supporting the planned model of
certification are very confusing, inconsistent with certain
statements found in the legal documents of the AIC, and
contradicting certain widely perceived notions of what the AIC's
role is in our professional community.

I am not implying that this is an attempt to deliberately mislead. I
think the implementation of the certification in our field is an
extremely complex task and I am sure the CITF is very much aware of
this. There are certain steps that should be taken first, before the
certification can be planned. I think that our field needs
organizing. One example that comes to mind is developing a system of
accrediting professional degree programs in conservation not only in
the U.S. but also internationally. This will allow evaluating the
level of education and the standards offered by different
conservation programs as represented by conservators in our country.
This will lead to accepting the truly highest standards we all
acknowledge. This in turn will create a healthy structure within our
field and let us plan forward in a constructive way.

Joanna S. Pietruszewski
Art Conservator
Aegis Restauro, LLC
586 Millstone River Rd.
Belle Mead, New Jersey 08502
908-359-5200 (phone/fax)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:36
                 Distributed: Monday, December 15, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-36-009
Received on Monday, 8 December, 2008

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