May 1998 Volume 20 Number 2
Two years ago the United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (UKIC) set up a working group to draw up proposals for an accreditation scheme, and following their report in June 1997 members voted to implement such a scheme. The structure put forward at that time has been modified following concerns raised by some members and a revised proposal will be put forward at UKIC's 1998 AGM.
Some of the main decisions have already been taken. The most fundamental is that there should be only one level of accreditation (the initial proposal was for two). At a consultation meeting held at the V&A on 3 December 1997, UKIC members also agreed that the level required should be a realistic one which most practising conservators can achieve.
Proposals were also discussed at the meeting for the criteria to be assessed during the accreditation process. It was decided that there should be no prescribed number of years experience, the argument being that if a person was competent, and the criteria for proving competence were robust, a time element was not necessary.
The educational background of the candidate is also not to be specifed. It was explained that "fully competent" means that somebody has demonstrated to the professional body itself that he or she is professional and that this is the important requirement. Professional qualifcation is up to that body: they decide when a person is qualifed. UKIC is not planning to become involved in the validation of conservation courses.
UKIC's accreditation scheme will not be limited only to those undertaking practical work, but would be open to anyone who could meet the criteria. If those criteria were well designed, people could be admitted whatever their current role in conservation. Therefore, for example, those in management who have been practical conservators in the past, could be included.
A form of fast-track entry "grandfather clause" is planned to encourage well-established conservators to sign up for accreditation, and to ensure a good start to the scheme. One possible mechanism is to allow those with over ten years experience to qualify through self-assessment, with back-up references. The usual criteria for competence would apply, and standards would not be lowered. This route would only be available for a restricted period of time, after which all would be required to undergo the normal peer group assessment.
UKIC has identified the work that needs to be undertaken before an accreditation system can be instituted. The criteria and assessment methods have to be developed, specifcations and formal paperwork drawn up for assessment and disciplinary processes, a CPD (continuing professional development) framework worked out, and guidance notes prepared. Everything will have to be checked for legal implications, trialed, and following approval by the UKIC Council, published. Assessors must be found and trained, and the necessary bureaucracy put in place.
Substantial resources in time and money will be required. An estimated figure of £28,000 was put to the AGM last year. A savings of approximately £10,000 could be made if UKIC members were to work on a voluntary basis, but this is likely to compromise the time-scale. The preferred option is to pay an expert. UKIC does not have the resources to undertake this itself, and is therefore keen to collaborate with other conservation bodies. The financial benefits of working together include savings by sharing costs and enabling partnership grant applications which are likely to be more successful than applications by individual organizations.
The December 3rd meeting voted unanimously in favour of the principle of a unified scheme that could be used by all conservators. Various opinions were put forward as to how this should be achieved. UKIC is currently further ahead than IPC with plans for implementing accreditation. It has a sense of urgency and many feel that it should continue at full speed, and that other bodies could "dovetail" in, if and when this was appropriate. The system being developed would accommodate conservators from different disciplines, and it was felt, could therefore be adopted by other bodies. A preliminary meeting to discuss the possibilities of collaboration has already taken place between IPC, the Society of Archivists, and UKIC.
Frances Hinchcliffe and Ann Spreadbury
In Pavia, Italy, October 18-22, 1997, forty-five experts from a wide range of disciplines in the Conservation and Restoration sector representing sixteen European countries were invited by the "Associazione Giovanni Secco Suardo" (a non-governmental organization), to identify common guidelines to be proposed to the European Union for the future adoption of firm standards throughout Europe.
This project is financed by the European Union within the framework of the preparatory actions of the 1996 Raphael Programme. The project is partnered by the Universite Lobre de Bruxellles, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres, Section d'Histoire de l'Art (Belgium), the Hochschule Für Bildende Kunste (Dresden), the Hamilton Kerr Institute of the University of Cambridge, Museum and Galleries Commission, and the Ecole Nationale du Patrimonie IFROA (Paris). Support was also given by the Ministry for Cultural Province, Commune and University of Pavia and various other European and non-governmental organizations.
A tough program of work was outlined for the duration of the summit, including: historical perspectives, the present and future profession of conservator-restorer of cultural heritage; training standards in Europe and the definition of the term "competent professional"; and the growth of awareness on a public level, both professional and political.
Following these discussions "The Document of Pavia" was drawn up and approved. Additional information concerning this document and other ECCO news can be found on: palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/ecco