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Subject: Salaries


From: Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo>
Date: Tuesday, April 22, 2003
This is in answer to the discussion of salaries.

This is a difficult problem.  I have written before on this subject
in pieces for the AIC News.  However, an interesting question was
raised by Peter Lundskow concerning job security and pay.  He
mentions that Conservation Technicians have more job security and
benefits and this is often true.

In the 1960s there were few titles of "conservator" or "restorer",
generally people were called "preparators" who provided a variety of
skilled and semi-skilled functions in museums.  When I left the
California Academy of Sciences, in the early 1970s my duties
included researching objects for exhibition, analyzing materials for
labels and scholarly publications and what we would call today
conservation.  I was offered and took a job at the De Young at twice
the pay.  Bob Futernick was candid and honest about the job, its
title was "technician" and it was protected by the City's union
rules and contracts so it was very secure and paid benefits. Bob
never cared what people's titles were, what was important to him was
what people could do and their attitude and he assured me that there
would be plenty of opportunity to advance and grow.  And this
happened, I worked in both painting and paper conservation and in
all other aspects of museum duties, and sat on museum committees.
True to his word, Bob helped me get a NEA training grant in
conservation and my job title was changed, but could not be removed
from the "technician" category without losing both seniority and
contract protection. But we did, I thought, invent the "conservation
technician" title, I could be wrong.  Having this protection and
benefits allowed me to buy a house, send my daughter to college and
start my private practice.

The point is that one does not always have to start at the top. Plus
doing everything at one point in one's career can give one insight
into the problems and requirements of other positions. A job can be
called a lot of things and evolve into whatever the institution
needs and the individual is capable of.  Of course, this requires
enlightened management.  On the other hand, young conservation
students just out of graduate school might consider the conservation
technician position as a temporary step to build institutional
experience, pay off loans and create a financial base for another
phase in their careers.

Now to address the real difficulty--how to increase salaries?  Every
time this issue has been addressed in the past many good ideas have
been put forward but few have demonstrated any benefit in practice.
Certainly other professions which have allied themselves with
scientific methods have made more progress.  Some of the support
professions in the health industry come to mind like surgical
assistants.  But what holds back conservation?  Perhaps the former
identification as a craft, perhaps its perception as allied to the

Nevertheless, it seems to me that an  improvement might come about
by increasing the educational status of the field.  Now that
certification has passed, perhaps we should merge this process with
a terminal degree.  When Chandra Reedy proposed Ph.D.s in
conservation at an IIC conference several years ago some curators
there responded negatively, and I might say rather, excitedly.  I
think this response came about (certainly from the arguments made
why conservators should not be Ph.D.s) over the issue of status in
institutions.  However, I think that the field might benefit from
elevating the image of the conservator as a doctoral position.

Since the AIC is a non-profit educational institution, it could be
modified to award doctorates at the end of the certification
process.  This would serve the ends of those who have so often
pushed certification as a means of increasing the public image of
conservation, and I think, it would benefit and rationalize
certification for both those apprentice-trained and those who have
graduated from the programs.  Here I mean that in both cases an
additional educational element would be added to their stature in
the community of professions, worth the cost and the time of

Niccolo Caldararo
Director and Chief Conservator
Conservation Art Service

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:63
                 Distributed: Wednesday, April 23, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-16-63-003
Received on Tuesday, 22 April, 2003

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