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Subject: Professional qualifications and AIC

Professional qualifications and AIC

From: Gene McCall <gmccall>
Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I am a fifty-two year old conservator in private practice (CIPP).  I
have been in practice now for approximately thirty years, conserving
furniture, statuary and gilt objects, and I have been a member of
the AIC since 1996.

I present this biographical information simply to place myself in
the continuum of our diverse membership.  I am not really aware of
just how much diversity our membership represents, and perhaps that
is partly the cause of my dilemma.

While I do know a number of other conservators as well as a larger
number of museum personnel, I am somewhat insulated from the
majority of our membership because most of my time is spent in my
lab/studio conserving cultural property.  That is fine, I like it
that way.  It is only because I am deeply concerned that I find
myself writing this missive.

My dilemma is this.  I am beginning to question the direction the
AIC seems to be taking.  And I am wondering if I am still
comfortable supporting that direction with my membership in the
organization.  I am also wondering if I am virtually alone in this,
or if there may be a significant number of conservators in this
organization also experiencing similar upset.

I voted against certification for many of the reasons which have
already been discussed in this forum by others more eloquent than
myself during the weeks leading up to the certification vote.  I do
believe in majority rule so I suppose I must accept the vote and
move forward.  But I am disturbed by some things which have come to
my attention recently and I wonder whether or not I am alone in this

I decided not to attend the annual meeting partly because I felt
that the AIC seems to be becoming a less inclusive organization than
it once was.  Recently my sense is that without having graduated
from a conservation program here in the United States one is looked
down upon.

Perhaps I am way off base here, but in the field of furniture
conservation it has been my pleasure to work with quite a number of
traditionally highly trained and artistically sensitive artisans who
have never graduated from college, let alone from a certified
conservation program.  And it occurs to me that the vast majority of
culturally significant furniture being conserved in the United
States, especially for small and mid-sized museums, dealers and
private collections, is being conserved by these highly skilled but
traditionally trained people, as well as by many practicing
professionals who have had apprenticeships but have never
matriculated in certified conservation programs.

Yet when I first read the "Report of the Qualifications Task Force
(Draft - 1/27/03)" I could not help noticing the first sentence on
page 3, under the heading, Essential Competencies of the Conservator
"Today it is assumed that the conservator must have an undergraduate
university degree.  This basic level of formal education is
necessary to attain proficiency in critical thinking, communication,
and resource organization and management, all skills that are
important in every profession and field of endeavor involving

I have to admit that gave me pause for thought.  No person without a
formal Baccalaureate degree could be considered to have attained
proficiency in critical thinking, communication, and resource
organization and management.  Wow!  Does anyone think that statement
might be a bit elitist?  I certainly agree that reasoning and
organizational skills are important in many fields of endeavor.  I
have problems with the judgment that anyone not possessing a
university degree could not possibly have developed such skills, and
therefore could not possibly meet the basic minimum requirement to
be called a conservator.

During the weeks and months preceding the vote I cannot tell you how
many times I read that the certification process would go out of its
way to guarantee a track to certification for individuals who were
not academically trained.

I further had the opportunity to speak with a colleague (this
individual possesses a master's degree as well as having graduated
from a respected European conservation school) who just returned
from the annual meeting.  In addition to her academic training she
is currently working for a highly respected and long established
conservator in private practice who has decades of experience in
academia including the directorship of a major museum conservation
department.  She related to me her fear that she would ultimately be
denied certification because she was trained in Europe.  This fear
was based upon her interpretation of the ambiance of the annual
meeting as well as the direct private statements of some of the
participants with whom she conversed.  She also had the sense that
the meeting had an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, particularly
among CIPPs, with the current direction of things.  Worse, she
sensed that there was a hesitation on the part of the disaffected
parties to give public voice to their concerns.  And she even heard
from some young conservators that they voted for certification even
though they were privately against it, for fear of possible career

What is going on here?  Is this organization developing such an
exclusionary image that it is in jeopardy of losing significant
membership because many practicing conservation professionals such
as myself as well as some recently trained young conservators of
great potential feel intimidated, feel that they are being excluded
from the certification process.  Are we, as an organization, that

Anyway, the upshot of all this for me is that I fear that the AIC
may be in for some problems if it does not adequately address these
issues. I may be a minority of one, or these may be issues of no
significance to the organization, but if I am not alone in my
feelings I would appreciate reading some discussion of these matters
in this forum. Perhaps then I could make up my mind as to my future
relationship with the AIC.

Gene McCall
Gene McCall Conservation and Restoration Inc.
860-D South River Road
Englewood, Florida 34223
Fax: 941-473-2444

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:2
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 19, 2003
                        Message Id: cdl-17-2-003
Received on Wednesday, 18 June, 2003

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