Excerpted from the Chairman's Report in Paper Conservation News, Sept. 2002. Reprinted with permission.
The future of the conservation profession and the way forward continues to occupy IPC. There are strong indications that the profession as a whole is losing ground as news from LCP, The British Museum, and the Danish State Archives illustrates.
The bookbinding course at the London College of Printing is to close. With the previous closures of the courses at Guildford and Roehampton, provision has virtually ceased. In reply to IPC Chair's letter of protest, John Stephens, Dean of School at LCP said: "In spite of valiant efforts by the course team and the marketing department, we have been unable to attract sufficient interest in this course. Last year we suspended recruitment with only three applications."
There are proposed cuts of 27% to the staff of the British Museum's Conservation Department—the highest of all departments against an overall 14%. A press release from the Museum states: "The Department of Conservation and Scientific Research will be brought together to deal with fundamental aspects of preservation and the properties of materials. Project-based staff will be recruited to deal with specific needs such as the presentation of objects...."
Our colleagues at the Danish State Archives are fighting plans by Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen and the State Archivist to close down the entire conservation department at the DSA and replace it with one person—an in-house consultant. The money saved will go towards digitization. Mikkelsen is reported to have stated publicly, "Why should the public bother about archives? They are only yellowing old paper." The mystery is why the State Archivist should support such a move. Strong international support is given to the conservators, led by Michael Hojlund Rasmussen, Chairman of the IIC Nordic Group.
Shifting funds away from conservation to digitization and to other means of access is a political decision and there is a danger that unless the unified voice of conservation is heard, our views will not be considered. The comparatively small size of IPC makes a high-level presentation role difficult.