Volume 19, Number 2 .... May 1997

AIC Focus Group Meeting

At the suggestion of Sarah Z. Rosenberg, AIC Executive Director, another in a series of focus group sessions was held at L. A. County Museum of Art on March 18, 1997. Private conservators Bob Aitchison, Suzanne Deal Booth, Duane Chartier, Lisa Forman, Susanne Friend, John Griswold, Chris Stavroudis, Linda Strauss, Carolyn Tallent, Tanya Thompson, Rosamond Westmoreland, and Aneta Zebala participated. AIC now has approximately 45% of its membership employed in private practice.

The initial topic was possible ways that AIC might help conservators in private practice meet the economic challenges of reduced funding from the federal government and individual institutions. A large part of the discussion was concerned with an equitable system of referrals. At the present time much of it comes informally from area museums; some participants proposed using the AIC office as a clearinghouse. Others felt that to be an impractical solution, not only because the AIC office could not be aware of the subtleties of individual's capabilities, but also because of the inconvenience of calling Washington to be put in touch with a conservator. It was suggested that a Task Force might be appointed to look into this complicated issue.

The group discussed various problems presented by competition from institutional conservators who also serve private clients on their own time but whose expenses for overhead are paid for by their institutions, Frequently these conservators are able to charge less for their services due to the absence of true overhead costs in the treatment such as equipment, insurance, materials, etc.

Some suggestions were made regarding the possibility of financial subsidies for private conservators who wish to prepare articles for publication. It was felt that such valuable treatment-related information is not making it into the literature because of the time involved. Sarah asked if a stipend in the area of $1000 would be adequate to offset the cost of producing such articles. It was felt that this might be the only way that private conservators would be able to set aside adequate time, in contrast to salaried institutional conservators. This was followed by some questions regarding the possibility of using FAIC as an umbrella agency for non-institutional grant recipients.

The group further discussed: the difficulties that continue to plague the conservation profession stemming from the lack of certification and publicly recognizable professional status; inadequacies of outreach by AIC, as even museum directors often seem to be ill-informed about conservation; and the idea of AIC placing advertisements in various art trade publications. We also discussed the advantages of having an AIC website. Sarah stated that it is in preparation. Finally, Sarah listed the efforts made so far by AIC to lobby for continuation of funding through NEA and IMS.

Roz Westmoreland

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