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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: Monday, May 27, 2013
A curious comment appeared in an editorial written by Ms. Joyce H.
Townsend in the current issue of Studies in Conservation.  The theme
of the issue is preventive conservation, a topic that I wrote about
in a recent post ((Conservation DistList Instance: 26:44 Sunday,
April 7, 2013). This was in response to the recent closing of
laboratories (e.g., at Indianapolis) and lack of jobs in
conservation. My argument was that these were associated with a
failure of the main journals in conservation to publish and promote
conservation skills, especially treatments.  Ms. Townsend refers not
to my comments but acknowledges that,

   "We are aware that some have noted disparagingly that few papers
    by practitioners are published within our pages--but this
    reflects an absence of submissions, not a policy of rejecting
    them on grounds of subject matter.  It is true that the maturity
    of the conservation profession means that the innovative
    treatments of previous decades are now part of the canon of
    accepted and safe ways of working, but conservators will never
    be without challenging new materials, and poorly-understood
    older materials which have aged in (thus far) unpredictable
    ways.  We welcome such papers and look forward to receiving them
    in the coming years."

This is an interesting statement as it puts forth the impression
that the policy of the IIC has a specific limitation in publication.
All of us who are practitioners must take note as it gives us a clue
to what the editors will accept.  Ms. Townsend asserts that "the
maturity of the conservation profession means" that all innovative
treatments have been achieved accept those that deal with new
materials or poorly-understood older materials that have aged.  Is
this what the membership believe?  Do we know all we need to know
about treatments? Can we rest assured that there is nothing new to
learn in conservation treatments?  I am astounded!  There is no need
for research in treatments or sharing what we do!

After the post I wrote appeared I received a number of emails and
phone calls from conservators expressing the general view that when
they received their copies of Studies or JAIC they looked through
them and just put them on their shelves.  They felt the journals
were not useful.  This is a shame, our publications should be means
by which practitioners speak to each other and show the work we are
doing.  There is also an issue of access.  It may be that our museum
research laboratories can refer to past treatments in their
laboratory libraries, but few private practitioners have these back
issues.  Also in my travels in meetings and in laboratories all over
the country and world I have heard from conservators in institutions
that they have no room for reference materials.  One assumes then
that all conservators need today is to go to the programs, get an MA
in conservation and they have learned all they need to know about
any treatment.

I think this is a mistaken interpretation of what we should be doing
and how we should be viewing our careers as professionals. Heaven
help us if doctors and engineers or other professionals acted like
this.  I was hopeful that Reviews in Conservation would provide a
forum for understanding past treatments and evaluating new methods
in the context of old ones and materials.  Unfortunately this was
not the case and anyway the journal failed.  Perhaps I have
misunderstood Ms. Townsend, perhaps she and the publication
committees of Studies and JAIC have a wider role for the
publications than this editorial seems to express.  Let's then have
a dialog and let's hear from the membership about what they want in
their publications.

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


                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 26:51
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 28, 2013
                       Message Id: cdl-26-51-013
                                  ***
Received on Monday, 27 May, 2013

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