The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 7, Number 2, Supplement
Education & Training
May 1983


Training in Paper Conservation

by Ellen McCrady

People learn paper conservation in a variety of ways, but anyone who intends to pursue it seriously should make formal full-time education in an academic setting the main component of their preparation. The reason for this is made clear by the impressive list of subjects that paper conservators are expected to master nowadays (AN 6/1, Feb. 1982, p. 17). Certain of these subjects cannot be satisfactorily learned on the job, or by reading, or by attending occasional weekend workshops--except perhaps by rare geniuses.

North American degree programs that include paper conservation in their curriculum are all in the East: at Cooperstown, New York; Winterthur, Delaware; the Institute of Fine arts, New York University; and Queens University, Ontario. Harvard University/Fogg Museum Center for Conservation and Technical Studies does not have a complete program but offers excellent one-year fellowships in paper and other conservation specialties. Columbia University has a degree program in library and archival conservation, dealing with bound and unbound record materials, as distinguished from art on paper, which is taught in the other institutions. There is considerable overlap between conservation of archival material and art on paper, but they are oriented to the needs of different types of institutions (libraries and archives vs. museums and galleries).

It is often customary for conservation students to spend a year or so in an apprenticeship, often unpaid, before applying for admission to these programs. Whether or not a person intends to apply for admission afterward, he or she would do well to ask the school admissions people what conservators they would recommend to work with. An apprenticeship in a good lab not only gives the student a better education, but makes it more likely that they will be accepted in the school when and if they apply. Competition is keen and only the host are accepted. (So far, apprenticeship is not expected of Columbia applicants, though.)

There are other forms of education, too. It is not unusual for a conservator to use several forms of training in the course of his or her career, even if they already have a degree from a formal program. There is study abroad, for instance: Europe, like North America, has everything from weekend workshops to degree programs. However, a degree from a European program carries less weight here than one from an American program.

There are one-of-a-kind workshops and refresher courses, as well as those given regularly at fixed locations. It is hard to learn about these before they happen, even if one takes all the right newsletters. It helps to be on a good grapevine. Workshops are popular in many fields nowadays, and somewhat controversial because some companies are making tidy profits by exploiting what

appears to be a widespread addiction to workshop attendance. At least workshops in conservation are not as expensive, per hour of instruction, as attendance at a university. Sometimes workshops provide the only means to bring teacher and student together, because in small fields like this, the best teachers are often working at a full-time job and are not available for longer periods of time.

To stay informed about opportunities for workshops, courses and apprenticeships, get on mailing lists, join organizations, and attend meetings. Regional groups are good for people trying to enter the field. As their meetings are smaller and less formal, one can meet people more easily. Six principal groups are listed, with officers and addresses, on p. 12 and 13 of the February AIC Newsletter.

If you have any contacts at the major labs where paper conservation is done, check with them from time to time, because these places are used as information dissemination centers by people who plan events. The larger labs are often on the mailing lists of planners, and will post the announcements they receive on their staff bulletin boards.

For fairly complete lists of training centers in the States and Europe, write for:

A lucky few people, already on the staff of an organization and doing some paper conservation, are able to persuade their employers to send them to a larger institution for an internship to upgrade their skills. Sometimes the employer gets this idea independently. The Library of Congress Restoration Office has in the past given such internships for periods as short as a few weeks or as long as a year. (Currently, however, it is do--emphasizing its in-house training functions.) Arrangements are tailor--made and negotiated between the institutions well in advance. A grant may be obtained to pay for the cost.

Some paper conservators or institutional labs still prefer to train their own assistants or conservators, and may even have a formal training or apprenticeship program. These programs, to be adequate, must be several years long and include academic instruction as well as on-the-job training. If it is the same in paper conservation as it is in bookbinding, the trainees are usually local people, perhaps already on the payroll in another capacity, rather than someone who has applied by mail.

Occasionally a beginning or intermediate-level job will be advertised locally or nationally. To be ready for work or apprenticeship opportunities like this, you should make out a Standard Form 171 for jobs with the federal government, and résumé for nongovernmental jobs. Keep them up to date so you can send either one out on a moment's notice.

The SF 171 is what the government uses instead of a résumé. It is very long; nothing is left to chance. Get forms at the Federal Job Information Center in the Federal Building in your city and allow yourself several days to fill them out. Fill out everything but the spaces for the actual job opening you will be applying for, and the date and signature. Make photocopies, and you can finish filling them out and sign and date them just before you send each one out.

To optimize chances for government jobs, send your updated SF 171 regularly to the appropriate departments in all institutions you might want to work at--or at least to the ones that promise to keep it on file so they can

consider you if an opening comes up suddenly. Ii they refer you to the personnel office, and the personnel office has no openings at the time, then it is your responsibility to keep checking with them. If you are from out of town, forget it, unless you have a good friend who will call you up the day be/she sees a new job posting on the board that you might qualify for, or unless you have someone on the inside who will let you know if they see a job coming up in the near future.

In the meantime, read and study to prepare yourself. The American Institute for Conservation has a bibliography for this purpose, entitled "Reading List for Students in Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works on Paper." They will send it to you for $3.75. In order to gain access to most of the items on the list, the student will have to either buy them, borrow them from friends, or travel to a library that has them, because they are not commonly found in most libraries.

Some of the main organizations that are oriented to paper conservation are given below, with their relevant publications. The CCI is at 1030 Innes Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0M8, Canada. The other addresses and full names are given on the back page of the index to v.6 of this Newsletter, published 1983.

AIC - Newsletter, Journal, Book & Paper Group Postprints
Canadian Conservation Institute - Reprints, Bulletins
Institute of Paper Conservation - Newsletter, Journal
Library of Congress - Preservation leaflets, Monographs
CCAHA
IIC - Studies in Conservation (Journal)
IIC-CG - Newsletter
NEDCC
NARS
Restaurator

Schools that have degree programs in conservation are:

State University of New York at Oneonta
Cooperstown Graduate Program in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
Cooperstown, NY 13326
Contact: Mrs. Irma Cizek, Administrative Assistant

University of Delaware
Winterthur Art Conservation Program
301 Old College
Newark, DE 19711
Contact: Joyce Hill Stoner, Director, Art Cons. Program.

New York University
Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts
14 [sic] East 78th St.
New York, NY 10021
Contact: Lawrence I. Majewski, Chairman

Queens University
Art Conservation Programme
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada
Contact: Prof. H. W. Hodges, Director

Conservation Programs
School of Library Service
516 Butler Library
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027
Contact: Paul Banks, Director

[The author would like to thank Paul Banks and Mary Todd Glaser for their helpful suggestions and revisions, and Marilyn Kemp Weidner for the comment she contributed:

"The one thing I would like to see at some point is the distinction between 'conservator' and 'conservation technician. ' I believe the value of the 'conservation technician' is going to become very important in the years to come--especially in the area of conservation of library and archive materials."]

 

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