Volume 17, Number 3 .... September 1995

The IIC Keck Award

by Caroline Keck


Sheldon and I met at the Fogg Art Museum in the first course either of us ever took related to art conservation, and for the sixty years of our married life, the practice and philosophy of that activity was our overwhelming absorption. Early in our mutual careers we encountered Paul Coremans of Brussels. Like us, he had a vision and determination to turn restoration services into an acknowledged profession, which at the start of the 20th century was almost a lost cause.

In our beginnings, restorers were sought among creative artists. This was suitable: they knew what went into a work and how it was put together. When the advent of art schools divorced artists from intimacy with their materials, such restorative attentions proved more damaging than remedial. There were also certain family firms specializing in refurbishing, who used skilled secretive systems shared only via inheritance and never with owners or others. Towards the close of the 19th century, an elite minority evolved, well-paid experts employed by dealers to condition expensive items into optimum appearance for sale to wealthy clients. In retrospect, our field had to be developed from assorted closet skills subservient to fashions in taste.

During this 20th century our development has been an exhausting battle with a series of small victories. After defining requisites and standards for professional practice, museums had to be convinced that in-house care of collections was to their advantage. Then came the matter of who, how and where to teach our curricula, and finally encouraging academia to open its door a crack. By now, the framework for professional status exists but we have a long way to go before full acceptance.

Unfortunately, to a large extent we remain a group of exclusive individuals, who tend to converse in a private lingo and spend efforts impressing one another. To gain full professional status in the 21st century we need friends. We need to reach outward

Establishing the Award

To encourage colleagues to devote time and energies to this end, we offered IIC the Keck Award. After a while -- credit the IIC Council with thoughtful consideration -- the endowment was accepted by them as presented. Limited to IIC members, the Keck Award, in cash form, is bestowed every two years at the IIC Congress, to the individual or group who has in the opinion of the Council contributed most towards promoting public understanding and appreciation of the accomplishments of the conservation profession.

Nominations consist of:

  1. a letter setting out the achievements of the nominee in raising public understanding and appreciation of conservation.
  2. a curriculum vitae of the nominee, and
  3. appropriate supporting material such as papers, articles, exhibition notices, newspaper clippings, and so on.

The IIC Council selects a review committee. Nomination deadline is the end of April in the year of an IIC Congress meeting.

Recipient of first IIC Keck Award

The first IIC Keck Award was presented by IIC President Agnes Ballestrem at the 1994 Ottawa Congress to Simon Cane for the "Stop the Rot" exhibition organized with Mary Brooks at the York Castle Museum, UK. The exhibition ran for a year, was visited by more than half a million people, and was used as a much admired training resource by conservators, museum professionals and teachers.

"Stop the Rot" faced tough competition. The other finalists were all praised by the judging committee for their imagination and success in promoting public awareness of the conservation profession. The variety of the ways in which conservators are making their work accessible and important to the outside world was impressive. The 2nd IIC Keck Award will be presented at the 1996 Copenhagen Congress. Nominations will be invited towards the end of 1995.

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