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Subject: A death

A death

From: Paul A. Messier <pm<-at->
Date: Thursday, September 17, 2009
Jose Orraca died the morning of September 14, 2009.  A passionate
and charismatic leader, the contemporary practice of conservation is
a reflection of his achievements and his causes.

Jose Orraca was born in 1938 in Cayay Puerto Rico to a family of
prestige and prominence.  Jose's father owned swaths of agricultural
property and, significantly, movie theaters.  Though his love for
Puerto Rico never waned, Jose was compelled to set his own course,
leaving the island as a teenager. Jose studied theater, speech, law
and religion at Midwestern State University and Baylor University,
eventually entering the seminary there and emerging an ordained
Baptist minister.  Around this time, the Library of Congress had
embarked on a course to professionalize its approach to
conservation, in part, as a response to the catastrophic Florence
flood of 1966.  Integral to this effort, esteemed conservators,
including Marilyn Kemp Weidner, were hired to reshape the Library's
approach to the care of its diverse collections.

Answering a classified ad in 1968, Jose Orraca joined this campaign
and was handed the task, among others, of remounting photographs.
Interest piqued, Jose immersed himself in historical photographic
processes and techniques.  Still assigned to the Library, he was
sent to the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1971 to conduct
independent research into the preservation of photographs.

Concurrently, as part of her conservatorship of Alfred Stieglitz's
photographic prints, Georgia O'Keeffe contacted Caroline and Sheldon
Keck seeking preservation guidance.  The Kecks, in turn, recommended
Jose.  From 1971 to 1973, O'Keeffe funded Jose's studies through a
personal grant.  This work culminated in a comprehensive
conservation survey of Stieglitz prints within numerous
institutional collections.

Breakthroughs in the nascent field of photograph conservation
continued in this period.  Jose was appointed the first professional
conservator of photographs by the George Eastman House in 1972. What
emerged as a deep, lifelong, commitment to conservation education
began with a temporary position at the Cooperstown conservation
program held from 1975 to 1976. From Cooperstown, Jose became an
associate professor at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program
in Art Conservation where he designed and implemented the first
graduate-level curriculum in photograph conservation.

Partially in response to the growing fine art photography market,
Jose moved to New York City where he established a private practice
in photograph conservation in 1981, likely the first of its kind
anywhere in the world.

A co-founder of the Association for the Preservation of the Cultural
Patrimony of the Americas (APOYO) in 1988, Jose was always supremely
proud of Latin-American identity and maintained an enduring interest
in forwarding conservation practice in Caribbean, Central and South
America.  OJO, a newsletter he founded in 1991, exemplified his
approach to conservation as a melding of superior craft practice and
a deep knowledge of materials with an understanding of art history
and connoisseurship.  Also established around this period, The Kent
Workshops, were a manifestation of Jose's continued dedication to
learning and to his prescient recognition of the need for mid-career
opportunities for advanced and ongoing conservation education.  An
outward commitment to his "students" (a term he applied to any
number of graduate-level students, apprentices, interns and
proteges) was matched by his own inward drive for knowledge.

His diverse interests incorporated cooking, architecture,
horticulture and politics.  Never idle pursuits, Jose enrolled in
Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and received in 1996 a
Master of Arts degree in public policy with an emphasis on the
conservation of cultural property.

An enthusiastic organizer and vocal advocate, Jose's contributions
to the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) have had a marked
and profound impact.  In 1978, he founded the Photographic Materials
Group within AIC, paving the way for the growth and influence of
specialty groups within the organization. Elevating the professional
standing of conservators in private practice, always an abiding
concern, led Jose to help found the AIC sub group Conservators in
Private Practice in 1986 and, more recently, was revealed in his
strong support of AIC's proposed certification program.

An AIC fellow since 1972, Jose was presented with two of the
organization's highest awards.  His career-long commitment to
education was recognized by a Caroline and Sheldon Keck Award in
2000.  His contributions to the profession, made over four decades,
culminated in an Honorary Membership in AIC conferred in 2009.

Jose's continued journey will be guided by his deep faith and the
love of the many friends he valued so highly.  Jose Hipolito Orraca
y Perez is survived by Sadako, his wife of over forty years, his
adored son Carlos, daughter-in-law Marie and granddaughter Emma.  A
memorial service in the Connecticut Berkshires is scheduled for
September 19, 2009.  Contributions in Jose's honor may be made to
the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation.

Paul Messier and Debra Hess Norris

                  Conservation DistList Instance 23:8
                Distributed: Friday, September 18, 2009
                        Message Id: cdl-23-8-003
Received on Thursday, 17 September, 2009

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