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Subject: Objects Specialty Group List

Objects Specialty Group List

From: Laurie Booth <mwestcons>
Date: Thursday, December 3, 1998
I would like to try and perhaps clarify some of the misconceptions
regarding the reasons why the OSG limited access to the list
archives, partially in response to Smadar Gabrieli's recently posted
comments on the topic.  I encourage other members of the OSG-L to
add their comments as well.

First, the decision to close the archives was controversial and
certainly not a unanimous decision.  We live at a time when access
to information is almost a sacred ideal, particularly on the
internet.  Many OSG-L members felt that allowing access to the
archives was positive and educational.  I was one of those who
disagreed.

Generally, I believe those who objected had a number of concerns.
Many had always assumed that access to information exchanged on the
list was limited to OSG-L members.  They were uncomfortable that
their comments were available to others, and that they would have
possibly reconsidered what was said if they known that the
information would be "public".  Many feel that the function of the
OSG-L is the sharing and dissemination of information primarily
between professional objects conservators.  Many of the comments and
discussion revolves around experimental treatments, untried or
unpublished methods, and involves, in many cases, chemicals and
compounds that should not be used without a thorough understanding
of their properties, including health and safety issues.  As David
Harvey mentioned, as conservators we tend to take for granted that
others share our philosophical and ethical approach to the treatment
of artifacts.

Conservators should also be mindful of potential liability issues
involved with allowing access to this kind of information without
proper disclaimers, warnings, etc.  Unfortunately (in the US anyway)
we live in a society when people will sue because the coffee they
spilled in their lap was too hot.  How more concerned should we be
when people are accessing information relating to potentially
dangerous materials and methods?  Does this make us elitist snobs to
be concerned that the comments we make on the list may be quite
dangerous to the general public (not to mention the artifact)?

Many felt that it would be more appropriate to answer inquiries from
the public and related professionals in a forum designed
specifically for that purpose.  In general, the goal of closing the
archives was not to create an exclusive club, but only to prevent
misunderstandings and the dissemination of potentially harmful
information.

Certainly the general public can and often do turn to unreliable
sources in their search for answers to conservation problems.  Has
anyone on this list surveyed antiques forums on-line and noticed the
kind of advice freely exchanged on them?  There are thousands (if
not millions) of conservator hobbyists out there.  I, for one, felt
that I would rather take all possible steps to prevent information
in the archives being potentially misused.  If this is seen as a
negative and futile gesture, I can only say that most of us intended
it otherwise and are more than willing to share our knowledge and
experience in venues outside the OSG-L, such as the DistList, where
everyone is aware that the information is more generally accessible.

Let us also redouble our efforts to continue educating the public
and related professional groups about conservation in general. There
are, unfortunately, too few aware of us.

Laurie Booth
President/Objects Conservator
Midwest Conservation Services, Inc.

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:50
                 Distributed: Tuesday, December 8, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-50-009
                                  ***
Received on Thursday, 3 December, 1998

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