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Subject: AIC certification plan

AIC certification plan

From: Christopher Augerson <chris<-a>
Date: Sunday, December 14, 2008
Regarding the current plan designed by the Certification
Implementation Task Force (CITF) for AIC certification of
conservators, I have described several reasons for my opposition to
it on the distlist, in the hope of generating a worthwhile and
needed debate on this important issue.  By its name, the
Certification Implementation Task Force was obviously given a
mission to create a certification program (perhaps a task too
narrowly defined from the start), rather than investigate whether it
would be possible to simply modify the current system of existing
membership tiers, as has been my suggestion. Despite the arguments
of the CITF, I still fail to see the need for two separate
certifications, one for "service" (the original PA system) and one
for capability, both of which to be "marketed."  The PA system was
never written in stone, already having evolved over the years into a
system that now does measure the capability of applicants.  I
believe that its further evolution into a workable, contemporary
accreditation system for conservators in the United States remains
possible.  I do not to dismiss the laudable dedication of the CITF,
but their proposal must stand on its own merits.  Process and
product must at this point of development be decoupled, and all of
us must focus solely on product.

In their response to my DistList posting, the CITF indicated their
belief in the necessity of implementing a scheme for the
professional accreditation for AIC members along the lines of the
exam-based certification that they have proposed.  They indicated
that the current system of professional categories is not creditable
because it lacks two criteria: a career-long, continuing education
component and a blind review (their proposed written exam, with
candidates remaining anonymous to graders, provides a blind review).
However, it should be noted that most of the European accreditation
schemes for conservators do not have a continuing education
requirement.  That of the United Kingdom is an exception, with
continuing education being evaluated periodically; yet the process
by which their accreditation is awarded is not blind (candidates
being evaluated in person in their workplace).  The presence of
these two criteria, though perhaps desirable, is clearly not
essential for an accreditation scheme--and their current absence in
the PA scheme does not invalidate it.

The CITF also indicated that the PA system is deficient because it
did not initially require a close review of the conservator's work
reports (as it has done in recent years) but merely relied on the
testimony of colleagues.  For this reason, the "grandfathering" of
all PAs--giving them all automatic accreditation--is not considered
a practicable measure.  But would it not be possible to accredit
those PAs who acquired their system after such documents were
required, and perhaps also those who graduated from a master's
degree conservation program (the French bestow automatic
professional accreditation on those who have graduated from one of
their accredited training programs)?

Grandfathering as many PAs as is reasonable could provide
substantial savings in cost. Individuals who got their PAship
without a review of their reports, and who do not have an accredited
degree in conservation, might simply send in copies of their
conservation reports for blind review.  While their paperwork is
processed, they could in the meantime hold titles such as 'Honorary
Member' or 'Honorary Fellow.'

I am very concerned by the thought that many longstanding PAs and
Fellows will not participate in the CITF's new scheme as proposed,
not wanting to drive for hours to take an exam graded by
conservators who may have less experience in their area of
expertise.  If they cannot be "grandfathered," such long-term
professional members would more likely participate in the new
accreditation scheme if all they had to do was mail in a few reports
from their files.  It would be wrong if the new scheme was
instituted as proposed by the CITF, but then lacked the
participation of some of our most experienced members.  I admit that
there may be certain problems with the process of "grandfathering"
large groups of AIC members into the new accreditation scheme;
however, I believe the problems associated with establishing and
maintaining quality exams and exam graders to be fraught with
greater accountability risks, now and in future years.

Although the limited space here does not permit me to reiterate all
my reasons for opposing the proposed certification scheme, I will
elaborate on my two principal reasons: the inadequacy of a written
exam as a gauge of a conservator's abilities and its cost.  Three of
the most important qualities for the conservation work that I do are
eye-hand skill, patience, and an ability to focus throughout long
and tedious processes.  A rapid, written exam, by its very nature,
cannot test for these whatsoever.

I am not the first to raise this issue: Stan Lester noted in his
recent article in The Conservator, "Putting conservator's
professional qualification in context," that the UK accreditation
system was established with awareness that a written exam format was
not appropriate for the type of work being evaluated.  As to the
overall cost of the CITF's proposal, this would include the cost of
continuing education, which may fall to individual members to cover
personally (as Patricia Griffin has recently noted on the distlist),
especially in this time of institutional budget cuts.  The savings
to the AIC in exam preparation might better be used to make
continuing education courses more affordable.

I hope that if they have not done so yet, readers will read my
initial set of comments on the CITF proposal, and their responses to
my points:


    **** Moderator's comments: The above URL has been wrapped for
    email. There should be no newline.

I also refer them to a website that Jeff Peachy set up for the
discussion of the issue


and the various opinions that are continuing to be posted on the

Chris Augerson

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:36
                 Distributed: Monday, December 15, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-36-011
Received on Sunday, 14 December, 2008

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