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Subject: AIC certification plan

AIC certification plan

From: Paul Messier <pm<-a>
Date: Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The proposed certification model is the result of many years of work
by a large and dedicated group of conservators volunteering their
time for the benefit of AIC and the conservation profession.
However, work on the model is not complete.  Indeed, efforts by the
Certification Implementation Task Force have only intensified since
the Denver AIC Meeting, primarily in response to extremely positive
and useful feedback received from all segments of the AIC
membership.  As part of this effort, we have held discussions with
representatives of all specialty groups, reviewed survey comments
and results, read postings from various discussion groups, and
consulted representatives of allied organizations.  Based on all of
this information, the CITF presented a modified certification
proposal to the AIC Board of Directors on 30 September, which was
approved on 7 October 2008.  This plan is available at

    <URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/>

Members' comments have been, and will continue to be, an important
part of developing the certification program. The recent posting by
Christopher Augerson in this forum is no exception.  In formulating
this response, the CITF feels strongly that the current
certification model addresses many of the concerns voiced by Mr.
Augerson and numerous other AIC members over the years.  In some
instances, however, his view of the proposed AIC certification
program is not in alignment with the current model.  Following are
the CITF's comments to Mr. Augerson's letter (for the sake of
clarity copied in full).

Christopher Augerson <chris [at] augersonartconservation__com>
writes

>My Opposition to the AIC Certification Plan
>
>Regarding the proposed plan for AIC certification of conservators, I
>oppose it for the reasons outlined below.  In evaluating it, I draw
>on my knowledge of accreditation schemes in the UK, France and
>Belgium, with which I have first-hand experience.  I appreciate the
>work that many have done, but I see no need to change from the
>current, less costly system of AIC membership categories such as
>Professional Associate.  Moreover, I see potential pitfalls
>associated with its implementation beyond its financial cost.  Most
>importantly, I believe such certification will misallocate AIC's
>limited resources and that of its members.
>
>1. Background: Professional accreditation in Europe, where the state
>of the profession is critically different from that in the U.S.
>
>One reason that the idea of AIC certification has held much interest
>in the last several years is that during this time accreditation
>schemes have been instituted in each of the European Union
>countries.  In some countries such as the United Kingdom,
>conservators had been the victim of centuries-old traditions that
>consider all manual laborers to be of an inferior class.  This
>deep-rooted attitude negatively affected our European counterparts,
>whose salary rates are substantially lower than ours in the United
>States, even with recent exchange rates considered.  For this
>reason, certification in the UK is important to enhance the
>professional profile of practicing conservators in Europe, relative
>to other museum professionals and other highly-trained specialists.
>In France, certification distinguishes conservators who have proper
>training and follow the ethical guidelines of the profession from
>the ubiquitous storefront restorers who have inferior training or
>ethical guidelines.  In many European countries, these distinctions
>are further necessary because conservation training programs with a
>scientific approach are a recent development and must be
>distinguished from trade schools that merely teach traditional
>artisan techniques, and whose graduates comprise the great majority
>of people who currently practice as "conservators."  In those
>countries, there are relatively few people who have training in the
>use of conservation-grade materials and in principles such as
>reversibility and minimal invasiveness.
>
>The United States has not had such problems during the last quarter
>century.  There is no prejudice against conservation as manual
>labor.  Trained conservators are not far outnumbered by unqualified
>restorers.  The lack of a certificate, beyond an appropriate
>university degree, is not a source of discrimination for
>conservators relative to other museum professionals.  All this is a
>result of the excellent conservation training programs that have
>been established in the United Sates since the 1960s. We now have at
>least two generations of conservators trained at the Master's level,
>and this has set a high standard for the non-program trained
>conservators as well.  Today, the requirements for entry into the
>U.S. training programs are even more demanding than in Europe: ours
>require more prior coursework in the pertinent subjects such as
>chemistry and art history and, of equal importance, they require
>pre-program training in conservation.  Many people who do not go on
>to a Master's degree program still follow this preparation, and
>their ability do good work can be recognized by the AIC with the
>status of Professional Associate, which the AIC Membership committee
>acknowledges is "a de facto 'certification', primarily because of
>the requirement of proof of compliance with minimum levels of
>professional procedures and practices."
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/position_mc.html>

The AIC certification program is being developed for and by members
of AIC.  While other certification programs can provide supplemental
information for the development of the AIC program, the call for an
AIC certification program has come from end users of AIC
conservation services, and from within the membership of AIC.  We
are not doing this in response to initiatives in European Union
countries.

The correct and accurate quote from the Membership Committee (MC)
Position Statement is:  "Under the present nomenclature and
structure, the Professional Associate and Fellow categories imply a
de facto "certification," primarily because of the requirement of
proof of compliance with minimum levels of professional procedures
and practices."  The selective extracting from this sentence
distorts the MC position.

The following paragraph clarifies the MC official stance on the
membership categories:  "The Membership Committee has long been
uncomfortable with the contradictory nature of using the membership
categories as an unofficial but acknowledged poor substitute for
real certification, and simultaneously acknowledging that in fact
this is an inappropriate use of membership categories, and does not
really constitute a meaningful measure of competence.  In fact, the
current PA application process serves only to establish proof of
compliance with the AIC Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice,
and thereby an identifiable commitment to the ideals for which AIC
was established and represents.  The Fellow application process
represents a significantly higher level of commitment to AIC and
contributions to the conservation profession." The PA process also
establishes proof of a minimum acceptable level of training and/or
education in conservation.

Throughout the position statement the MC makes it abundantly clear
that the use of member categories as a form of certification is not
an acceptable practice.  The MC spent several years grappling with
these issues and came to the conclusion that certification as a
measure of competence and skill had to be done through a program
separate from the membership categories.  This position statement
remains a significant marker along the path to certification, but
the present CITF has handed off all future deliberation regarding
membership categories and nomenclature and any affect certification
may have on them to the Membership Committee, where such
deliberations rightfully belong. While confusion on these issues may
be inevitable, the existing membership categories recognize an
individual's standing in AIC, our professional membership
organization.  As a credential, certification functions more broadly
by signaling basic competency in the practice of conservation and is
entirely independent of one's membership status in AIC or any
analogous membership organization.

>2. The current system of accreditation is better than the proposed
>system
>
>In the last edition of AIC News, Barbara Appelbaum and Paul
>Himmelstein noted some of the questions and possible problems
>arising with an exam format for the accreditation of conservators.
>These are likely to be the principal reasons that the accrediting
>bodies in the UK and France have chosen to institute accreditation
>systems that resemble the AIC's current review for PA status, rather
>than create a system like the proposed AIC certification exam.
>
>Our current system for becoming a PA might be refined in some of its
>details, but remains very good.  Most egregious was the AIC
>Certification Committee's assertion that we need an evaluation of
>the competence of conservators because Professional Associate status
>is not a measure of such competence, but instead a measure of one's
>"service to the profession"
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/position_mc.html>. At
>least two years of conservation training (after an undergraduate
>degree) and at least three years of experience are typically
>required of PA applicants, who must provide three letters of
>reference from PAs familiar with their work (who, preferably, have
>visited the candidate's workplace).  Applicants must also show
>evidence of their ability to adhere to the AIC's Code of Ethics and
>Guidelines for Practice by providing documents such as recent
>examination forms, proposed and completed treatment forms, lecture
>materials, planning documents, and survey reports.  How can all
>these requirements for PA status not be a measure of competence?  To
>me it offers more proof of competence (or lack thereof) than the
>proposed certification exam, which is handed in to examiners who are
>not familiar with the candidate's practical work, and without
>further discussion or the opportunity for the examiners to pose
>further questions.

The current PA and Fellow application processes are not any form of
accreditation. They do not supply credentials, but merely designate
membership levels based on years of education/training, experience,
and contributions to AIC. The AIC Professional Associate program
initially was meant to assess service to the field and adherence to
the Code of Ethics and did not include submission of documentation
reports.   Over time, the program evolved into a quasi-certification
program, but one that lacks blind review and a career-long education
component.  The proposed certification program is meant to provide a
creditable, sustainable program that meets the needs of
conservators, freeing the PA program to focus on service to the
field.  Both programs can be easily described and justified and both
can be marketed separately.

Reinventing membership categories as implying certain levels of
competency versus the intended function of recognizing service to
the field would undermine both objectives. The present AIC
membership system is too subjective to be used for certification. In
particular, the PA system would have to be entirely revamped to
fulfill the demands expressed repeatedly by members of AIC that any
certification program be unassailably objective and credible.  In
the considered opinion of AIC CITF and MC, retooling membership
categories would, at minimum, require that PA ratings expire, at
which point we would need to start over from scratch. Bestowing some
sort of pseudo-certification by "grandfathering" current PAs has
been roundly rejected by AIC members over many years. Not only is
there lingering animosity over grandfathering of fellows at the
beginning of AIC but there is a clearly held perception by nearly
all of the AIC-member volunteers that have looked at this issue over
the years that the credibility of any certification program based on
grandfathering is instantly eroded and undermined. Right now, a PA
is someone who can find sponsors to say that he/she practices in
accordance with the AIC CoE and GfP.  Certification should mean more
than an endorsement by other members. The principle behind the blind
peer review of candidates for certification is the critical element
underlying the legitimacy of the entire certification program.

The confusion among casual observers between the membership
categories and certification may linger, but the significant
differences in the requirements should be clear to all over the
course of time.  Currently, the requirements for Professional
Associate Status require the following: "Applicants must demonstrate
ability to adhere to the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for
Practice."  This concept is expanded in the proposed certification
program by requiring the applicant to submit two documentation
reports, each with an essay of 800 to 1,000 words that explains the
thought process behind actions taken and a discussion of how each
documentation report conforms to the AIC Code of Ethics and
Guidelines for Practice.  Additionally, the applicant must complete
two case studies that would require essay answers addressing
specified criteria relating to a variety of competencies. Candidates
would be able to choose from a number of case studies in each of the
specialties represented by AIC Specialty Groups and an additional
area for preventive conservation.

The certification exam is designed to reveal critical thinking
skills, ability to apply general conservation concepts to specific
cases, and show the ability to follow the Code of Ethics and
Guidelines for Practice. The applicants will be presenting their
work through the two documentation reports with supplemental essays,
and will be able to demonstrate their critical thinking skills
through the case studies. Grading rubrics will be developed with
input from all the specialty groups.  This system offers both the
opportunity for an applicant to present their personal work in a
thorough way, and for that work to be evaluated on a uniform basis.
Please see the New Proposed AIC certification Program (October 2008)
sections titled "Exam Structure" and "Exam Grading" for a more
detailed explanation. None of these proposed certification criteria
have any bearing on AIC membership status.

>3. AIC Certification was proposed to define the qualifications of
>professional conservators, so that government agencies will not
>inaccurately define our qualifications.  In fact, certification does
>more than is necessary to provide such a definition and too little
>to help the classification needs of those agencies.
>
>According to the Certification Committee, a primary reason for
>certification is for the profession to define the qualifications and
>standards of its practitioners.  Otherwise, they argue, government
>agencies will do this for us, as apparently they have since the
>1990s in published descriptions of government jobs for conservators.
>What the committee has not made clear is how the government's
>criteria were inappropriate or unfair to actual practicing
>conservators.
>
>In truth, the AIC has already provided a definition of a practicing
>conservator in its bylaws and noted the compliance of such a
>conservator to ethical guidelines as enumerated in the AIC Code of
>Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.  Perhaps the definition of a
>professional conservator given in the AIC bylaws could be made
>clearer, or perhaps it would be appropriate to elaborate upon the
>"specialized education, knowledge, training and experience" required
>of a conservator. (It might be useful to add, for example, that the
>knowledge pertains to the function of the artifact conserved, its
>material nature and chemistry, its sociological and historical
>context as well as the aesthetics of the culture and epoch of its
>production.)
>
>By describing the struggle of government agencies seeking to define
>a conservator when hiring one, the Certification Committee
>acknowledges that public institutions need the AIC to further
>clarify the professional credentials of its members, in order to
>help such institutions in their hiring decisions.  But the proposed
>certification plan will not do that very well. Designed to be low in
>cost, the proposed certification scheme will not address a
>practitioner's specialized skills.  An examination of these would
>require a more lengthy, more complex and more expensive
>accreditation process.  One can conclude that selecting the right
>conservator for the job will remain an important and occasionally
>time-consuming process (requiring reference checks, etc.).
>
>Public officials might be helped in this endeavor by being made more
>aware of the AIC's current recommendations on selecting a
>conservator, by having the Internet link to these recommendations be
>more easily found by web search engines, and possibly by AIC
>revising them with public officials in mind.  In addition, perhaps
>the AIC could offer a course for public officials and others charged
>with choosing a conservator.

It is true that AIC membership status has gradually been worked into
RFPs for conservation services. This trend is the result of the void
left from the days when it was more common for employers to require
that applicants have a degree from a recognized conservation
program.  AIC has been very active in this regard; attempting to
make clear that there should be no discrimination against
apprentice-trained conservators.  From the perspective of a
prospective employer, certification will rectify this situation, as
the current model is designed to provide applicants a means of
demonstrating skills and understanding of the underlying principles
of the philosophy of conservation, as well as how one can solve
complex problems and execute a well-thought out treatment proposal,
regardless of how they were educated or trained.

In addition to the AIC Bylaws, Code of Ethics, and Guidelines for
Practice, AIC has published Defining the Conservator: Essential
Competencies.  These documents can be found on the current AIC
website under Core Documents.  A certification program will not
define qualifications of professional conservators beyond these
documents, but it will provide guidance to end users of conservation
services.  An end user (such as a government agency, museum staff
member, or a collector) will know that an AIC certified member has
the skills and experience to successfully address in an essay format
specified criteria for two case studies in their area of specialty.
In addition, an end user will also know that trained reviewers have
approved two documentation reports that have been submitted with
essays explaining the thought process behind action taken and a
discussion of how each documentation report conforms to the AIC Code
of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.  Further, end users will know
that a certified professional has at least the level of experience
and training required to sit for the exam.

Advisors to the certification task force who are end users of
conservation services have stated that they are waiting for an
AIC-approved program since it will provide more confidence in
choosing a conservator.  Of course, as was pointed out, picking a
certified conservator is only the first step in determining who to
work with.  It will always be important for the end user to do
additional research to determine if the needs of the job can be met
by a particular professional conservator.

The above paragraph suggests the importance of educating end users.
Marketing of the AIC certification program (addressed more fully
under #5) is critical to its success, and funds are being allocated
to this effort.  The new AIC website, coming soon, will be an
important part of the marketing plan.  The new site will be much
more accessible for the conservator and non-conservator alike.
Certification will be addressed fully.  In addition, the "Guide to
Conservation Services" will be renamed "Find a Conservator," and
will have the option to provide much more detailed information about
the conservators listed, beyond contact information.  In addition,
there will be an optional link to the conservators' own websites.
Information on selecting a conservator, designed to provide some
basic guidance to members of the general public, will be
substantially revised to reflect the AIC membership categories and
certification status.

>4. The Certification Committee wrongly argues that "once AIC members
>attain professional associate or fellow status, there is nothing
>that requires continuing education or commitment to the field"
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/issues_minutes07.pdf>.
>
>This statement is factually incorrect.  To paraphrase article X of
>the AIC Code of Ethics, a conservator's continuing education *or*
>contribution to the field is an ongoing requirement, even for PAs
>and Fellows.  Continuing education is therefore not required for
>those who are teaching or otherwise contributing to the field.  I
>agree with those who believe that continuing education should apply
>to all conservators.
>
>Would it not be simpler, if this is a problem to be addressed, to
>simply change the wording of article X of the Code of Ethics, so
>that everyone is expected to participate in continuing education?
>Certainly no one would be opposed to it in principle.  And most
>people would rather take a refresher course than take a
>certification exam (woe to the person who'd prefer the exam!).
>
>A means of keeping track of how each individual satisfies these
>requirements could be debated, if any such means is to be put in
>place at all.  ICON monitors this with special forms that
>conservators must fill out, but perhaps a couple lines added to
>one's annual membership renewal form would suffice, for describing
>what one has done to learn more during the previous year.  This
>could be attending a special course or symposium, but it might
>simply be participating in Internet forums and reading AIC News and
>JAIC.

The Code of Ethics, as described in the Preamble, "sets forth the
principles that guide conservation professionals," but does not
present any of those principles as contractual obligations for any
member of AIC.  Article X, which is concerned with contributing to
the field, states:  "This contribution may be made by such means as
continuing development of personal skill and knowledge, sharing of
information and experience with colleagues, adding to the
profession's written body of knowledge, and providing and promoting
educational opportunities in the field."  Nowhere in this article is
there a direct mention of the lifelong learning and contributions to
the field as being a requirement for anything.

Currently there is no requirement for members, once they have become
PAs or Fellows, to submit proof of regular continuing education. The
certification program will require a number of certification credits
(the number is yet to be determined), over a five-year period to
maintain certification. See "Recertification" in the new proposed
program for more information.

>5. Certification of conservators by AIC would not necessarily give
>them clout in wider circles
>
>Certification is also intended as a means to give conservators more
>clout vis-a-vis powerful team members such as architects
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/certfaq.html>. However,
>the certification of conservators by their fellow conservators is
>not guaranteed to give them a lot more clout.  Part of the
>Certification Committee's argument for certification states that
>even plumbers have certificates.  By this, can one conclude that
>conservators, once certified, can look forward to being on the level
>of plumbers, in the eyes of architects?
>
>How others perceive us can only be addressed by a drive for
>educating the public about what we do and its importance, and about
>the many years of study, training and experience that the work of a
>professional conservator requires, summed up by their title of
>Professional Associate.  The recent suggestion of the Membership
>Committee to change this title to Professional Member seems
>reasonable to me as these PAs do form the main body of the
>professional membership, and "Associate" more often infers a less
>central corps.

The reference by the committee to certification in other
professions, including plumbers, was simply to emphasize that
without certification a perception may be that the quality or
importance of what we do is less critical.  As pointed out,
implementation of the proposed certification program will not
provide conservators more respect and standing outside the field, at
least right away.  Public education and marketing are essential.
Over the past five years, AIC has been reorganized to better serve
its members and to increase outreach activities.  A great deal has
been accomplished.  A major component of this effort is to transform
AIC's Foundation (FAIC) so that it can increase understanding and
appreciation of conservation and increase support for the field.
The FAIC bylaws were revised in 2004 to allow the creation of a
development board.  While three AIC board members will be ex officio
voting members of the FAIC board, the majority of FAIC board members
will be non-conservators who have specific skills and experience
necessary to achieve AIC and FAIC goals.

Recently, FAIC received $100,000 from the Getty Foundation to begin
a major strategic planning effort.  The two-year grant project
includes research, consulting services, a series of summits, and a
retreat that would strengthen strategic planning and help to develop
the FAIC Board.  Drawing from leaders in conservation, allied
professions, and the media, AIC and FAIC will learn what the best
role is for FAIC, how to best shape its goals, and who likely
partners might be in this effort.  By increasing our outreach
efforts, we will increase the visibility of conservation.  Whether
certification goes forward or not, outreach will be expanded.  Yet,
it seems that a certification program can help strengthen marketing
to non-conservators and can be easily incorporated into our
strategic plans.

>6. The argument that certification is needed to level the playing
>field between program-trained and other conservators
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/certfaq.html> is not
>valid.
>
>I am aware of such discrimination within the profession, and believe
>that encouraging further professional development for all
>professionals in conservation should be a goal "especially if some
>of us worry that others may lack a sufficient foundation of training
>in it.  At this time, however, not being program trained does not,
>to my knowledge, pose barriers to Professional Associate status for
>conservators.  If equal footing through PAship has not eliminated
>discrimination, on what possible basis is it conceivable that equal
>footing through certification will end it?

By granting equivalent membership status to conservators of all
educational backgrounds, the PA program has indeed done a great deal
to level the playing field between program and non-program trained
conservators.  PA status provides a means for those without academic
training in conservation to demonstrate their basic understanding of
the underlying principles of the profession and a recognized ability
to comply with the CoE and GfP.  The significant difference is that
the certification process will allow the applicant to demonstrate
emphatically and objectively what he/she knows, regardless of where,
how, or with whom it was learned.

>7. Investment in a certification program will not ensure better
>treatment of art and artifacts.
>
>It has been stated that the new AIC system will not be mandatory
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/certfaq.html>, but public
>institutions will likely require it over time.  In the UK, ICON
>(formerly UKIC) does not make accreditation mandatory for its
>members, but it has become nearly so in practice, with public
>institutions now requiring newly hired conservators to either be
>certified or to have their certification in progress (their more
>complicated process can take a year and a half).  One can expect AIC
>certification over time to become mandatory for all conservators
>working for museums, thereby requiring AIC to invest heavily in the
>program.  Nonetheless, it would not necessarily improve the
>treatment of artifacts in U.S. museums, where the standard is
>already high.  Moreover, it should not be expected to secure better
>care for the artifacts and artwork in the hands of private
>collectors and dealers, who will have no obligation to hire
>certified conservators.

The AIC Certification program is intended to ascertain an
individual's ability to make appropriate decisions as a conservation
professional without supervision. It is a measure of the
conservator's thought processes in relation to the AIC Code of
Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, and is not intended as a tool to
influence individual conservation treatments.

If certification becomes a strongly desired objective for AIC
members, costs to AIC in the form of staff time and resources to
administer the certification program will be off-set by the
application fees from participants.  Initial start-up costs for
Certification will be covered largely by grants (see "Certification
Timeline" and "Summary of Budget Projections" in the new proposal).

>8. Conservator certification may be difficult to overlay onto an
>existing professional hierarchy.
>
>The Current Membership Committee has proposed a co-existence of PA
>(renamed PM)/Fellow categories, along with Certification
><URL:http://aic.stanford.edu/certification/position_mc.html>.  In
>practice, this means that there would be a variety of professional
>titles: Certified Members, Professional Members, Fellows, Certified
>Professional Members, and Certified Fellows (as explained in Ruth
>Syler's letter to Specialty Group chairs, dated May 23, 2008).  This
>garden of varieties can only confuse that poor public administer,
>mentioned above, whose work we intend to simplify by using new
>titles.
>
>Another real problem that we may face upon instituting certification
>is that many Fellows, who are the leaders of the field as
>professors, course instructors, teachers and authors, may not be
>inclined to drive several hours to take an exam, graded by another
>conservator of lesser experience.  The Certified Membership could
>easily be skewed toward a less experienced group that does not
>represent the greater fruits of more than 40 years of professional
>excellence from the AIC.
>
>Accreditation could also have unintended, negative effects on the
>workplace of the museum conservation department, such as divisions
>between certified and non-certified conservators.  In the UK, I have
>witnessed an ugly case of abuse of power of an ICON-accredited
>conservator over others in the department who were not yet
>accredited by ICON.   Supervisors motivated by politics can abuse
>their power to favor and assist one employee's certification over
>that of other equally-qualified employees.  Ill-natured, certified
>employees can also wield and abuse power over their uncertified
>supervisors.

The CITF acknowledges that integrating Certification with the
current PA and Fellow structure is a serious issue.  While the
Membership Committee wrote a position statement concerning this
issue (referenced in #1 above), that statement is not the final
recommendation of the CITF.  The CITF recommends that the AIC Board,
Membership Committee, and Bylaws Committee continue to coordinate
efforts to ensure that membership designations and certification
work together smoothly and are clearly defined as separate programs.

To reiterate: there is a very clear distinction between status
within AIC as a membership organization and competent professional
practice.

The current proposed Certification model will not require applicants
to travel for certification.  Grading of the exams will be done
according to established grading rubrics, created by AIC members
representing a broad range of experience and leadership. Please see
the "Exam Structure" and "Exam Grading" sections of the current
proposal.

>9. Adopting a completely new scheme will divert our resources, to
>our detriment.
>
>My greatest objection to the proposed AIC certification plan is that
>it can distract AIC members and our resources from critical problems
>that the profession now faces.  These problems include the
>downsizing of conservation staff at many museums, a growing trend
>among some in museum education to allow the untrained public to
>handle the collections, superstar exhibit designers who are able to
>override sensible measures for preventive conservation, the lack of
>any guarantee of affordable insurance for conservators in the coming
>years, an absence of peer review for a majority of conservation
>publications (JAIC and SIC among the few exceptions), and
>insufficient research funds.
>
>In addition to deterring us from addressing more pressing problems,
>an over-emphasis on the AIC's regulatory duties may also discourage
>its growth and development.  As Appelbaum and Himmelstein noted in
>the last AIC News, a strong emphasis on professional certification
>often leads to a reduced number of practicing professionals.  At
>this time, the limited job market for conservators provides enough
>discouragement for the young, intelligent and talented people who
>might enter the field and ensure its continued growth.  I am
>concerned that a new emphasis on a regulatory role for the AIC could
>discourage activity in a profession that is still developing in the
>United States and that is now rapidly evolving worldwide.

AIC has worked on certification since 1997, relying primarily on AIC
members volunteering their time.  The bulk of the costs of
certification will be covered by grants and income from the program.
While AIC has used staff resources for certification, they have also
been able to sustain service to existing programs and to implement
new initiatives, such as most recently, the AIC Collections
Emergency Response Team, and the Wiki Catalogue project.

While it is unrealistic to think that AIC could solve all the
problems outlined, conservators might be in a stronger position to
institute change if knowledge and appreciation of conservation is
increased.  If AIC members worked together to support AIC and its
activities, more could be achieved.  The proposed certification
program can assist us in strengthening the profession.

>10. The current system of PAs and Fellows could be altered if
>necessary.
>
>As Barbara Appelbaum and Paul Himmelstein suggested, it would be
>less costly and create less disturbance to simply adapt the current
>scheme of Professional Associates and Fellows if need be.
>
>It will be important to bear in mind, when altering the current
>system, that the systems employed by the medical, legal or
>architectural professions might not be completely transferable to
>conservation, because we lack clear standards for "best practice."
>This is in part due to insufficient research on conservation
>treatments and in part to the creative nature of the work in which
>multiple excellent approaches are possible.  A lack of clear "best
>practice" standards complicates our assessment of the conduct of
>conservators, and our accreditation scheme must accommodate this
>reality.
>
>The proposed certification plan offers the opportunity of an exam to
>gauge a conservator's ability to weigh different options of a
>treatment, and justify both the practical and the ethical reasons
>for a preferred decision.  Currently, applicants for PA (or PM) must
>write an essay about the ways they uphold the Standards of Practice
>and Code of Ethics; perhaps applicants could also be asked to write
>an essay that discusses their weighing of various options in
>specific work situations when important choices had to be made.  The
>written application for ICON accreditation requires such reflection
>upon and pointed discussion of previous work and the decisions made
>therein.
>
>We should debate the option of making mandatory the continuing
>professional development of PAs and Fellows, as does the proposed
>certification plan.  I suggest that article X of the AIC Code of
>Ethics could be changed to read, "The conservation professional
>shall contribute to *his or her own professional growth* and the
>growth of the profession...," adding the words I have emphasized.
>The reason being, in short, that it is important to maintain our
>excellence within the profession.

As discussed in #2 above, the problem becomes that one cannot simply
establish a new (or refined) set of requirements for an existing
program.  We cannot simply graft a different set of requirements
onto an existing program without having serious issues in terms of
balance between those accepted under the old guidelines and those
undertaking the new enhanced requirements. Therefore, we are
creating a new program, certification, which builds on and refines
the strengths of existing programs. Thus, those who have achieved PA
or Fellow status will retain their status within AIC and may choose
to also become certified to demonstrate their standing in the
profession.

While the distinctions are clear, there is no doubt that the
proposed certification program is building upon some of the ideas in
the PA application process. The required essay, with related
documentation, is a case in point.  Currently, the PA application
requires an essay of only 200 words, together with whatever
documentation the applicant feels appropriate.  This concept is
expanded in the Certification exam to specifically require two
examples of documentation reports, each with an 800-1000 word essay
in which the applicant discusses their work and their understanding
of the CoE and GfP specifically in relation to the two submitted
reports. This would be a significant difference from what is
currently being asked of the applicant, in that they must now only
demonstrate compliance with the CoE and GfP.

>11. Maintaining excellence
>
>In my introduction, I listed reasons that the AIC has been at the
>forefront of the profession worldwide since the 1960s.  In the new
>century, we have wonderful tools at our disposal for advancing the
>profession, and remaining leaders in the field.  It is my
>understanding that with Skype and webcams, conference calls are now
>possible, and it will be possible for AIC to host forums, from
>across all the Americas (and beyond), where experts in the field can
>discuss issues of importance to the field.  Such forums can be made
>available to conservators in the form of podcasts, along with
>lectures and other educational material.  By making professional
>development engaging and exciting, we guarantee fuller participation
>than by any other method, including regulation.
>
>These new technologies might also be employed to offer alternative
>means of engaging with applicants for Professional Associate status,
>especially those who live in remote areas, to discuss their PA
>candidature with them and provide additional opportunities for
>interaction with, or questions from, the AIC professionals reviewing
>their application materials.
>
>Supporting more courses, offered at more sites, and developing
>on-line learning forums can encourage further study by everyone,
>including PAs and Fellows, and the AIC should focus its resources on
>its educational role--within the profession and for the general
>public--and not on any regulatory role.  We should avoid recreating
>the overly self-regulating and protectionist ways of artisan guilds
>in the Middle Ages, and look forward to a future of increased
>professional membership and full member participation.

FAIC has developed a professional development program that, since
its inception in 2002, has served over 3,600 learners with a variety
of presentations, from week-long laboratory explorations to short
web seminars.  Online courses are already an important part of our
programs, and additional web-based presentations will be added as
our technological abilities grow.  Our programs are supported by
grants and dedicated endowment funding, and would not be reduced
because of certification activities.  Indeed, the opposite effect is
likely to occur--as conservation professionals prepare for
certification, their own self-assessment is likely to lead many to
want to refresh their skills and knowledge, leading to even greater
demand for and support of educational programs of all kinds.

>In summary, I suggest several ideas for actions to be considered, as
>alternatives to AIC certification, should the membership be
>persuaded: (1) changing phrases of Article X of the AIC Code of
>Ethics so that continuing education be an ongoing requirement for
>all members; (2) asking  members to comment on their recent
>continuing education when renewing their annual membership; (3)
>changing the title Professional Associate to Professional Member, as
>has been suggested; (4) asking applicants for Professional
>Membership to write an additional essay, on their weighing of
>various options in one or more project wherein important choices had
>to be made; (5) enhancing the availability of the AIC's advice on
>choosing a conservator, perhaps with a course for public officials
>and others charged with heritage preservation; and (6) directing any
>financial savings achieved through the abandonment of the
>certification plan toward continuing educational activities for AIC
>members.
>

In essence, this summary lays out much of what the proposed
certification program is intended to achieve. The problem is that it
is impossible to force all of these new, forward thinking concepts
into the old categories.  As pointed out above, doing so would
imperil the existing AIC membership categories and enfeeble the
certification program from the start. Membership categories and
certification must be distinguishable and meaningful. Certification
is very specifically about knowledge and skill, whereas membership
is about participation within a profession and a professional
organization.  These are two distinct activities. With new ideas and
new requirements, we need a new program, hence the proposed
certification model.

We have taken some time to respond to Christopher Augerson's letter
because we want to clearly state our thoughts, hence the lengthy
document.  The delay is in no way due to disagreement or inaction on
the part of the committee.  The issues recently brought up by Chris
and others were discussed by the committee during the development of
the certification model, and were examined from various
perspectives, leading to the current approach.  Our thoughts and
conclusions on these issues have been presented in the past in
Issues Sessions and the AIC News, but still appear to be a concern
to some members.  We hope that our responses here will clear up any
lingering questions about the rationale behind our support of the
current model.

The certification program presented in October of 2008, and posted
on the AIC website, represents where AIC is on the certification
path. Certification is and will continue to be a dynamic program
which will evolve through time as the needs of the AIC membership
change.  We have arrived at this point through years of study and
discussion. Polls of the AIC membership show that a large majority
of our colleagues not only endorse the concept of certification but
also the general model put forward by the CTIF.

Many of Mr. Augerson's final suggestions are addressed in the body
of this reply.  Every comment and suggestion raised throughout this
process has been considered, and the evolution of the proposed
program shows the influence of member comments and concerns.  Please
review the current proposed model and the Frequently Asked
questions, which are based on member's comments and questions.  The
upcoming member vote on Certification will determine, by member
response, whether AIC will proceed in developing certification along
this proposed path, or if the pursuit of certification will end.

The Certification Implementation Task Force, Terry Drayman-Weisser,
Tom Edmondson, Cathy Hawks, Nancy Pollak, Eric Pourchot, Ruth
Seyler, and Eryl Wentworth

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:34
                 Distributed: Sunday, December 7, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-34-002
                                  ***
Received on Wednesday, 3 December, 2008

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