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Subject: Objects Specialty Group List

Objects Specialty Group List

From: Miranda Martin <miranda.martin>
Date: Tuesday, December 22, 1998
I followed the discussion of the OSG list with great interest, as I
remember clearly the early days of the DistList. In the 80s and the
very early 90s, the DistList was a forum for practicing book and
paper conservators.

    **** Moderator's comments: This was never an intentional
    boundary; during the early days very few museum people were
    online. From the very first announcement, the DistList was meant
    to be a multidisciplinary forum.

As allied professionals, largely library preservation officers,
discovered the list, conservators expressed concerns along the lines
that David Harvey and Laurie Booth have laid out very clearly: that
the topics were leaving treatment issues, and that many of the
participants on the list might misunderstand much of the discussion
to the detriment of collections.   An alternate "treatment" list was
tried for a while, but finally collapsed under the weight of
under-use. Eventually, not only library preservation types, but even
conservators from other specialties discovered Walter's home on the
net, and the DistList evolved into its current state.

    **** Moderator's comments: For the record, the list Miranda
    referred to was a small private list.

So maybe the objects group is simply more organized than us B&P
types, or maybe Book and Paper Conservators don't want to discuss
treatment problems in large groups.  And clearly, it isn't in
Walter's nature to be exclusionary. So here are some questions for
all of us to ponder.

For those of you in OSG who voted to close the archives (because I
am aware that not all the members did)--do you feel any discomfort
in participating in the DistList as it now stands? You may not be
posing complex treatment questions, but occasionally, they do come
up from others and new  materials are discussed. Many objects group
members do respond to general questions--your answers are available
now and for the duration of the current state of the Web for anyone
to see--are you answering at a level which you feel is appropriate
to this audience? Is that level also appropriate for professional
conservators?

If the DistList is now perceived as a general *preservation*
oriented list, should the Book and Paper Group as an institution,
not in the person of our benefactor, Walter Henry, follow OSG's
suit?

Paper publications of the AIC specialty groups, which are not
peer-reviewed or professionally edited are available to any member
of the public at a library, or for a small sum (much less than the
$140 or so it would cost to join AIC and the group). Is a list
comparable in *any* way to a publication? Are other forms of
internal AIC communication closed to the public?

The medical profession shares the results of medical trials with the
public. We know that people cannot read about a new brain surgery
procedure or chemotherapy program, and then go home and try it--but
are we now in the position of the doctor of 150 years ago, jealously
guarding our secrets lest the Great Unwashed Public get hold of
them--the new alchemists of the 20th century? As has been discussed
before--do the members of OSG really think that over-interested John
Q. Publick's wouldn't be perfectly happy with 50 or 100-year old
information which is badly outdated, and widely available in books
and articles.

Let me make it clear that I am fully aware of the arguments to the
contrary: that, for example, the specialty groups' activities are
supported by their members dollars, and that giving away information
hurts the activities of the group by making members' efforts
available to those who have made no similar commitment. It has been
made clear that questions can be submitted to the owners of the
list, and that they will open the gates to *appropriate* questions
(and questioners, is suppose). I also know the argument that for a
small fee, anyone can, in fact, become a member of OSG (although, in
fact, for a conservator in Denmark or Israel, the sum may be
substantial). One could argue, too, that since any member of the
public, or any other specialty group in AIC can join OSG, that in
fact, what is being asked is a financial interest, and not an
intellectual, or professional one, in which case one could simply
say that access to the list costs $160 per year (or whatever the
current AIC+OSG fees are that year), and that would be the most
accurate. It would be interesting to me to know how prevalent a
practice this is across other highly specialized professions.

As a paper conservator, I have gained a great deal of information
about the consolidation of matte media from the objects community. I
suppose that I could, theoretically, pester the OSG list's owners
every six months, arguing that general information on this topic is
of value to me, and they might let me in. I may not be aware of
other kinds of research that could assist me in my work, and
wouldn't, under the current arrangement. I tend to err on the side
of openness, believing strongly in serendipity in general, and thus
am personally not particularly sympathetic to the OSG position. I
take some small comfort in knowing that at least some percentage of
the OSG membership isn't, either.

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:55
                Distributed: Tuesday, December 22, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-55-002
                                  ***
Received on Tuesday, 22 December, 1998

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