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Subject: AIC membership categories

AIC membership categories

From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo<-at->
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2009
Now that certification has been defeated again, I think it is time
for members to look at the membership categories again.  I do not
think we should have 3 categories, with 3 different kinds of members
and powers split among the top two.  This is not just an issue about
democracy but about the practical operations of a membership
non-profit.  If our primary goals surround promoting the
preservation of works of art and cultural property and the means to
do so in the improvement of techniques and procedures to ensure this
end, then we should have a more active membership and our
organization should be more proactive.

Here in California I see a lot of conservation (restoration) being
done by artists and craftspeople.  Much of this is undertaken
because people simply do not know about the AIC and the differences
in goals between artisans and conservators or do not know how to
reach us.  There are exceptions, as when a recent disaster in San
Francisco damaged a historic archive and the organization called in
a firm that has no conservators on staff to do the conservation. In
this case, the archivists were educated and certified professionals
who know about conservation but chose a firm (from what I have
heard) on the basis of convenience and a referral.  On the other
hand groups of architects have been taking on conservation projects
with a greater frequency and are becoming more aggressive in the
execution and control of work. Most of these firms do not employ AIC
members, but rather craftspeople, often they have a preservation
certified architect or a contract architectural conservator on

In these cases with restoration driven by architects I think the
issue is not one of cost but of control as most of the craftspeople
I have spoken to charge as much as conservators for their labor.  On
the surface I am happy to see conservators and architects work
together, but I am concerned that many architects are operating
under a misunderstanding about the work conservators do.  Two recent
very large restoration jobs in our state capitol went to painting
contractors to manage when conservators had bid on the jobs.  We
often heard during the debate in the past year that public agencies
are interested in certifying conservators when, in an increasing
number of cases I am hearing about and seeing, the work is done by
craftspeople that conservators show be doing.

This leads to an obvious question of how to change things and what
can membership categories do about this.  There are two solutions, I
think, that can help.  One is that with a stronger and more
committed membership we can get the word out to the public more
effectively.  We need to appeal to practicing conservators who are
not AIC members and those who are Associates to become PAs or
Fellows.  It may be unfortunate that we changed our name to
"conservator" from "restorer" as many people, both in the arts and
in construction/architecture, think of legal conservators or people
who are environmentalists. Nevertheless, we need to promote the work
we do more effectively, and to do that we need an active membership.
We have had essentially the same membership for more than a decade.
We should be at 10,000.  There are at least that many people doing
conservation in California alone.

But I think we can do a better job if we can persuade, convince or
badger our majority of Associates to become PAs and/or Fellows.  A
greater sense of professionalism does result when people achieve one
of these categories, not that the quality of their work was lower
before, but I think from my experience, the sense of association
becomes more acute.

Perhaps it is unrealistic to think that we can recruit so many
conservators that we could double or triple our membership in a few
years.  However, I think we could reach 80% PAs or Fellows in 5
years if we set that as our goal.  Also, I think we would see more
people going through the process if we did set such a goal.

The AIC should set in motion workshops in every region, at every
meeting of AIC, of the regional groups and with the help of CIPP
streamline the process. I have gone over several conservator's
applications to become PAs in the past decade and I know how
conflicted many people feel especially when they have been in the
field for decades.  The fear of rejection and of scrutiny weighs
heavily on many people, but what I find is that many people are too
hard on themselves, they do exacting work, and especially those who
are working alone, in remote areas, they have fewer opportunities of
testing their sense of proportion with other practitioners.  We need
to be more inclusive.

I am aware that a tremendous amount of work has been done in the
past by the AIC Board and committees and I am not criticizing this
past work in any way.  I am simply saying that we need to
reinvigorate the organization, to open the doors wider to those who
are not members and to enlarge our voting and responsible membership
so that we will have a greater body of people to carry the work out.
The Bay Area Art Conservation Guild has voted to lend our resources
to this end and to aid the AIC Board in every way possible to
increase our membership and our professional members. Let's get to

Niccolo Caldararo
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service
San Francisco

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:57
                   Distributed: Monday, April 6, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-57-003
Received on Thursday, 2 April, 2009

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