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Subject: Salaries

Salaries

From: Perry Hurt <phurt>
Date: Tuesday, May 6, 2003
I've been following the discussion of salaries for conservators with
some interest.  While I think many good points and constructive
suggestions have been made, only half of the equation has really
been addressed.

As someone pointed out, this is a supply and demand situation.  Much
has been said about the supply side: the extensive education and
training expected from today's conservator, the low pay, and lack of
permanent jobs. But hardly anything has been said about the demand
side of conservation. In my opinion the conservation field has been
very successful in making a better conservator but we have been
woefully inadequate at developing demand for our highly refined
skills.

It shows up in all of the "consumer" areas of our field.  Museums
are creating very few permanent conservation positions and in some
cases cutting them.  Many museums are relying more and more on less
expensive, and often less experienced, conservation interns.  It
seems the rare director, curator, or board of directors that
displays more than a passing interest in conservation and spending
money on it.  I know we can all point to a museum where this isn't
the case but it in many areas its certainly true.  In North
Carolina, which has more and better museums than most people
realize, probably less than five percent of museums have a
conservator on staff. Less than half, maybe less than a quarter,
include any real money for conservation in their budget.

In the private practice sector the cost of treatment remains by far
more important than the quality of conservation.  I'm constantly
coming across private owners as well as museum workers that don't
really know what we do, how to recognize good conservation work, or
know how to find a good conservator.

I like working on art by well-known artists for high profile
institutions as well as the next conservator.  But I think that
realistically we need to keep in mind that probably 99% of cultural
property and 99.9% of the money to be spent on preservation are in
private hands.  If we want to be paid better we need to educate the
ones who hold the purse strings.  If we do a better job educating
the general public, and our fellow museum professionals, the more
likely they will perceive the "essential" nature of our profession.
If they recognize the quality of good conservation they will be more
willing to pay a reasonable amount of money for it.

Perry Hurt
Regional Conservation Services
North Carolina Museum of Art
919-839-6262 ext.2207
Fax: 919-733-8034


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