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Subject: AIC certification plan

AIC certification plan

From: Erica James <ejames<-at->
Date: Wednesday, January 7, 2009
In considering Ruth Seyler's email addressing certification issues,
I would like to pose the following questions and comments to the
greater conservation community.  First, let it be said that I feel
ambivalent about certification.  I am neither here nor there on the
issue.  If it comes to pass, I will be tested, if not, I won't be.
Second, although I greatly respect the time and effort that our
colleagues have put into the work of certification, it is important
to understand that no matter how much work has been put into
something, if it is not received well by the community at large, the
work, no matter how much merit and good will it holds, should cease.

We need to define ourselves before others do it for us.

    This line of argument has always been something that I have
    found curious.  What governmental and state agencies have made
    initiatives to dictate who or what a conservator should be?  And
    for what purposes would they do this?  We need to know if this
    is a valid concern and why. Tell us please.

To raise the standards of our profession.

    All right, this seems reasonable.  If we test for certification,
    the standards will be raised to a degree.  As long as the
    testing is sound (I think this is the sticking point here) the
    standards could be said to be raised.  And, if some become
    certified, others will feel pressure and thereby do the same.
    This will require keeping up on current literature, etc--this is
    a relatively sound argument.

Certification can provide conservators with a recognized credential.

    This is certainly true.  Even if the general public doesn't know
    what it means exactly, saying one is "certified" carries a lot
    of weight.  It is associated with other main-stream
    professionals who require certification.  Whereas a Professional
    Associate or Fellow status means more to us internally, a
    certification will mean more to others outside the profession.
    Who will care about this? Probably clients of private
    conservators, mostly.  Will it get us more money?  Certification
    will only get you paid more if you have the common sense to ask
    for what you are worth. Certification can be a unifying force
    for our profession. With all due respect, this argument does not
    pass muster.  The entire purpose of certification is to exclude
    those who aren't qualified and include those that are and can
    afford to be.  If we want to be unified, things should remain as
    they are with the only levels of change being Professional
    Associate/Fellow status.  That does mean something and have

So, I am left with the following question: Who is this for and what
will it bring us?  The job listings in AIC have gradually changed
from "Program trained or equivalent experience" to "Graduate degree
in conservation required."  Most of the museum jobs will be taken by
graduate-trained professionals in a few years. This leaves the
conservators in private practice making up the vast majority of
those out there practicing.  If the CIPP has a graduate degree, that
should give confidence.  If the CIPP does not have a degree, there
is nothing that can stop them from practicing and, really, unless
AIC embarks on a monumental PR campaign, the general public will
have no idea how differentiate a qualified conservator from one who
is unqualified.   We are not doctors, we are not dealing in matters
of life and death. Doctors get more money because they ask for it
and really, in the end, does their certification stop malpractice?
Look at the back of any yellow pages--that will answer your
question. Food for thought.

Erica E. James
Assistant Conservator, Paintings
Conservation Dept.
Rosine Bldg.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
800 Rosine
Houston, TX 77019
Fax: 713-639-7740

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:38
                Distributed: Saturday, January 10, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-38-005
Received on Wednesday, 7 January, 2009

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