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Subject: Budget cutbacks at Indianapolis Museum of Art

Budget cutbacks at Indianapolis Museum of Art

From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo<-at->
Date: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Michele Marincola <mm71 [at] nyu__edu> writes

>I would like to second John Campbell's post (Conservation DistList
>Instance: 26:42 Wednesday, March 20, 2013) lamenting the cutbacks to
>staff at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

I can certainly understand this situation.  In 1978 after the
passage of Proposition 13 the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
experienced a near 40% cut in the budget.  Staff was reduced
drastically and conversations began to center around how to reduce
labor costs of all kinds.  The conservation staff suggested taking
in outside work, unfortunately I was one who put this forward.  It
gave the management staff and trustees the idea that we could
generate income not only for the salaries of our department, but we
could become an "enterprise" element of the museum.  "Making budget"
and generating income became a familiar cry after that.

I think, however, that in the interim the regard and significance
for conservators has declined, especially among management and

Partly this is due, in my estimation, to the entire theoretical push
of the past 30 years to emphasize preservation over treatment.
Certainly prevention (especially environmental conditions) is
important, but in the past two decades I have suffered the assertion
over and over from curators and collectors of the irrelevance of
conservators because of a new ethic in collecting of less or no
treatment.  Again, I do not kick my self over this as I was one who
pressed for a consideration of the "no treatment" option (especially
for archaeological materials (see my JAIC 1987 article "An Outline
History of Conservation in Archaeology and Anthropology as Presented
through its Publications"
and of the need for preventive conservation, but I think it has been
overdone. My argument was always that there was much more work to be
done in treatment than staff existed, but that I was disappointed in
the lack of planning on the management and curatorial level to
prevent damage in storage and exhibition.  This has, I think

Another element to this attitude that conservators are expendable is
the trend to contract out.  Worse is the fact that our discipline
has all but extinguished the publication of treatment articles.  I
wrote cautioning on the potential effects of this trend in the 1980s
and 1990s in an article in the AIC News in May of 1998.  I tabulated
the subjects of articles in the JAIC and in a table showed how over
time fewer private practice conservators were publishing and how
treatment articles were declining being replaced by art history and
scientific subjects.  In the past 15 years the situation has only
gotten worse as the trend has continued, but it has also been
reflected in articles published in Studies.  In conversations with
AIC Board members and publication committee members over the past 3
decades I was told that this reflected a desire to upgrade the
regard for conservation by other museum professionals.  A past
editor responded to my public question on this at an AIC meeting by
saying that conservators were no longer submitting many treatment
articles.  I was skeptical that publishing art history or scientific
articles would improve our image.  It has, I think, had the opposite
effect, other museum professionals see fewer conservation treatment
articles published and fewer images of our abilities.  When we have
spent more than two decades saying that preservation and prevention
are central to conservation and we depreciate the work that we do by
not promoting it in our publications we do ourselves a disservice.
We now are reaping what we have sown.

Niccolo Caldararo, Ph.D.
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service
Department of Anthropology
San Francisco State University

                  Conservation DistList Instance 26:44
                   Distributed: Sunday, April 7, 2013
                       Message Id: cdl-26-44-005
Received on Tuesday, 2 April, 2013

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