May 2002 Volume 22 Number 2

President’s letter

J. Claire Dean

Spring has arrived in force for most of us. I’m sitting in my mum’s study at home in the UK, and from this desk I can see our back garden. The bank of daffodils below the oak tree is glowing, and the grass is carpeted with wild violets and celendines. In fact, it is Easter weekend, and the whole of the Lake District is proving that our local bard, William Wordsworth, wasn’t dreaming when he wrote of hosts “of golden daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” It’s nice to see that there is still some continuity between 1815 and 2002.

I’m home for a brief holiday and the chance to check on a South African student studying conservation at the Institute of Archaeology in London. While there I also visited a few old favourites with fresh twists – the new Great Court and revamped Reading Room at the British Museum, and the Bankside Power Station, now better known as the Tate Modern. Both are well worth the effort, although I have to say that it is taking a while for me to get comfortable with the changes at the British Museum. It is hard to compromise childhood and student memories. It was wonderful to see so many people packing these venues – all right, I know it is the Easter holidays and that it helps that there are no admission fees to our major London museums, but from all accounts visitation and interest is up in general. This also means that conservation is more important than ever, so it is disappointing that despite all of this obvious progress and development, the public still hears relatively little solid explanation and information about conservation. There was a paintings conservator “demonstrating painting conservation” for a couple of hours one day last week at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, but I’d like to see more institutions include small, rather more permanent exhibitions about our work.

During last year’s WAAC gathering at the J. Paul Getty Museum, many of us had the chance to see the excellent conservation exhibition mounted by our colleagues in the Antiquities Conservation Department. A short time observing the public’s reaction and interest in this display proved that such efforts are appreciated and make an impression. This can only be good for our profession. I am fully aware that few institutions have the resources of the Getty, but I don’t accept that only major players can mount such displays. We all have projects that are interesting and can be made accessible and understandable to others. We are not the only people thrilled by those particularly juicy “before and after” pictures we save up to show off at the next professional meeting. I for one would like to see more conservation in the galleries and in the public eye in general. With luck, this year’s WAAC meeting in Portland will contribute in a small way to this idea ... read on.

There are two main topics to cover in this President’s Letter – this year’s election and the annual meeting. On the facing inside cover there is a Nomination Form with which I hope you will make suggestions for candidates for the next Vice President and the two Member-at-Large posts that will open up this autumn. Please, take a moment to think about possible candidates, and then use the form to tell us who you would like to see on your Board. It is said every year, so I will not break with tradition, WAAC is your association and you decide who runs it on your behalf. This responsibility is not confined to just voting (which WAAC members do in fairly high numbers), but also includes stepping up to the plate and either volunteering to be considered for a place on the ballot yourself, or at least suggesting individuals that you think should run WAAC on your behalf. Sadly, members are only too keen to vote but not nominate – we had one lonely nomination form returned last year. Let’s do better this time and make life a little easier for our Vice President, Mitchell Bishop and the Nomination Committee, who are responsible for coming up with a good slate of candidates.

On the other half of the inside of the cover you will find a Paper Abstract form with which you can submit a paper for consideration for presentation at this year’s annual meeting. As with last year, we are asking that you send your abstracts to the appropriate Board member. If you are not sure which person to submit it to, please just send it directly to me. The list of Board Members and their associated topics can be found on page 3. I am delighted to tell you that we have already received several abstracts, and this is most encouraging. They also help WAAC Secretary, Hiawatha Johnson, and Is feel more confident that we are not in the midst of organising a party to which no one will show up.

The meetings will start on the evening of October 6th with the customary reception, and will close on October 9th after a morning of papers and an afternoon of optional tours. Of course, we hope that members will either come early or stay late, taking the opportunity to explore Portland and its surroundings. Timberline Lodge still sits on the mountainside, and so all of you that had hoped that we would return there this year might want to spend a relaxing pre-meeting weekend near the snow, or retire to the mountain after the meetings to recover from all of the activity in Portland.

Elsewhere in this issue of the newsletter, you will find a separate piece detailing the plans for the meeting. You will notice that we have added a couple of new “events” to the familiar WAAC meeting structure. Both of the new events are being included in an effort to increase the amount of public outreach that WAAC carries out.

The first idea came through Member-at-Large, Beverly Perkins, who approached me last year with the idea of holding a fund raising silent auction of member donated items. (She had recently attended a similar very successful event). Thankfully, WAAC is financially very sound, so we decided to donate the funds to a local non-profit art based organisation, thus providing some support for a local cause. The nature of this event also means that should members not wish to support such efforts, they can choose to opt out by simply not taking part. No WAAC funds will be used to support this event, as it is being organised by volunteers and will rely on members to donate items for auction (see article on the auction, page 4), and successful bidders will give their money directly to the receiving organisation – WAAC (or more accurately our Treasurer, Chris Stavroudis) will not handle any of the funds. I am hoping that if this is successful, it will be taken up at subsequent WAAC meetings, at the discretion of the President, who will also have the opportunity to name the local organisation to support. We are still in the process of identifying the group that will benefit from this year’s auction, but I promise that it will be related to the arts and cultural preservation in some way. The auction will take place as part of this year’s annual dinner celebrations on the evening of Monday, October 7th.

The second outreach event will be on the evening of Tuesday, October 8th, when we will hold a free public forum entitled Caring for Your Family Heirlooms, during which a team of WAAC members will provide ten minute summaries about caring for different types of family treasures. This will be followed by a question and answer period. To add to the excitement and provide an incentive for other WAAC members to attend, the event will be held at Powell’s City of Books – one of the biggest and best known new and used independent book stores in the country and a Portland icon. Michael Powell has kindly offered to donate the use of their exhibition and book reading area within the main store, and include our event in all of their regular advertising, mailings, and calendar of events. The tone of the evening will be informal and fun, and the entire event should last about 1 hour – about as long as most folks can manage to sit on Powell’s chairs without wincing. I know that many of you have a trip to Powell’s at the top of your list of things to do while in Portland, so why not plan your visit to coincide with the WAAC event and lend your support?

I am hoping that future WAAC Presidents and Boards will take up events such as these – providing that they are successful of course – as a regular feature of our meetings. But they take organisation and the task of co-ordinating an annual meeting is no small job as it is. Fortunately, help is at hand. When I discussed the topic of public outreach with WAAC Secretary, Hiawatha Johnson, he enthusiastically supported the idea as he has also felt a need for more public education in conservation. As a result, at our recent mid-year Board Meeting Hiawatha floated the idea of a WAAC public outreach co-ordinator who on a volunteer basis will help arrange outreach events at, but not restricted to, the annual meetings, and he also offered to serve in this capacity. Happily, the Board took him up on the idea and his generous offer of service, and I will be assisting Hiawatha in this role in the future. So, if any of you have ideas for other public outreach events that you would like to see WAAC undertake, please contact Hiawatha (see page 4). With regard to the silent auction, provided the auction is a success and receives adequate support from members, both Beverly Perkins and myself are willing to consider organising this event at future meetings. Prospective Vice Presidents and Presidents take note.

Full details of the Portland meeting will shortly appear on the newly updated WAAC website, and every member will be receiving the customary registration information in due course.

I look forward to welcoming you to the City of Roses in October.

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