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Subject: AIC membership categories

AIC membership categories

From: Lorraine Schnabel <rainyroon<-at->
Date: Monday, April 6, 2009
As an architectural conservator who has been in practice for nearly
20 years, I feel I must respond to Mr. Caldararo's post
(Conservation DistList Instance: 22:57 Monday, April 6, 2009). While
I agree whole-heartedly with his statement that:

> If our primary goals surround promoting the
>preservation of works of art and cultural property and the means to
>do so in the improvement of techniques and procedures to ensure this
>end, then we should have a more active membership and our
>organization should be more proactive.

I question how this will be accomplished when there is obvious
sentiment in many of his examples that, on the one hand, unqualified
persons are doing work that should be done by conservators, but, on
the other hand, that as a group we should be "inclusive" and
dramatically increase our membership.

You can't have it both ways. You either have to acknowledge that
there are individuals who are not program- or apprentice-trained
conservators that have the skills, knowledge, and experience to
treat works of art and cultural property, or be firm in your resolve
that only individuals with "appropriate" training can do such work
and then define what, exactly, that training is. You also have to
decide, of course, if someone who does not actually do treatments
themselves can be a conservator.

The involvement of architects relative to conservation work seems to
be of particular concern, based on the following:

>...  On the other
>hand groups of architects have been taking on conservation projects
>with a greater frequency and are becoming more aggressive in the
>execution and control of work. Most of these firms do not employ AIC
>members, but rather craftspeople, often they have a preservation
>certified architect or a contract architectural conservator on

At the present time, the way the PA application is worded, most of
the preservation architects I know would be more than capable of
becoming a PA. Would that suddenly make their involvement in
projects with a conservation component OK? I'm sure Mr. Caldararo
has specific examples in mind where the involvement of architects is
problematic, but in order to be more inclusive don't we have to face
the reality that it is the architects and engineers (with their
ability to get massive amounts of professional liability insurance)
who will most often be awarded design responsibility for projects
with a conservation component (effectively, the "documentation and
treatment proposal end" of a project)? And, when it comes to hiring
the labor to do the actual work (the "treatment" part), how many
conservators can actually meet insurance, bonding, and other
requirements set forth by owners? Work is often awarded to
contractors (which is what conservators become in the context of a
construction project) with such considerations carrying as much
weight as skills and experience in the actual work required.

Also, conservators have to accept the fact that in a construction
project the design professional does have control of the work,
because they also have the liability in the event the work goes
wrong. Increasing the number of PA's and Fellows is not going to
change this fact.

Boiled down to its essence, Mr. Caldararo's post is making two
points. The first is that conservation work is going to people who
are not conservators. The second is that people who are qualified to
to become PA's and Fellows are not doing so. I think in both cases
we need to ask "why?"

In my mind, the answer to the first question is easy, at least when
it comes to construction projects. I don't see that AIC has made any
particular effort at outreach towards the architects and engineers
who are in a position to make it necessary for certain work to go to
conservators rather than craftsmen. And, there is the issue of
control. If conservators are work in a construction context, they
either have to cede control to the design professional, or they have
to have an organization that does such a good job of selling the
expertise of its members that no design professional would ever
consider undertaking design of a project with a conservation
component without employing a conservator for that part of the
design work. (Of course, this means that conservators also need
access to inexpensive professional liability insurance, but that's a
topic for another post altogether).

Finding the answer to the second question is much more difficult. I
wonder, has it ever been asked of the membership? I certainly don't
think it is worth putting forward any massive promotional effort
towards getting people to raise their membership status until you at
least ask the question. I do think a clue can be found in the
benefits accruing to those members who ultimately attain PA and
Fellow status after jumping through all the necessary hoops...

Lorraine Schnabel
Schnabel Conservation L.L.C.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:58
                  Distributed: Sunday, April 12, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-58-008
Received on Monday, 6 April, 2009

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