The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 17, Number 4
Sep 1993


Six Fields of Preservation/Conservation Compared

For several years the National Institute for Conservation has been keeping track of how well major types of artifacts are cared for in this country: historic preservation (the built environment), anthropology (archeology and ethnography), archives and libraries, fine arts, historical objects and natural science. For each field, it looks at how well needs are being met with regard to public awareness, professional information, professional training, research, and preventive care and treatment. (The second and third categories are further broken down into "Conservators and preservationists" and "Other professionals," and the fourth category, research, is subdivided into "Basic and applied" and "Analytical services"). It is all graphically represented in a diagrammatic table, with the cells shaded to indicate how well each aspect is taken care of. The table is discussed and updated at annual meetings by members, who come from all these fields.

As might be expected, fine arts is doing pretty well. It is ahead of all the other fields in two categories (professional training, both subcategories) and it ties for second place in two of the other categories (professional information for preservationists, and basic and applied science). The other field in second place, tying on most counts with fine arts, is archives and libraries! We are rated in the next to highest level for two categories: professional information for conservators and preservationists, and basic and applied research. (The most neglected field is natural science. NIC has organized panels and working groups to outline conservation needs of natural science collections and draw up a curriculum for training conservators in this field.)

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