CONSERVATION SURVEYS: ETHICAL ISSUES AND STANDARDS
Addressing these issues must involve practicing assessors as well as assessment program sponsors. Two areas clearly suggest themselves for consideration: assessor training and program review.
For reasons that should be evident, assessment is a discipline that does not readily lend itself to classroom training. One proposal that may provide useful experience is to teach current and future assessors by providing apprenticeships with qualified senior assessors. Another approach worth considering is the development of mentoring relationships for conservation assessors with senior professionals and client institutions. For example, CAP has paired many conservators with architects and preservationists in a collaboration that has proven beneficial for everyone. Perhaps there is a potential for collaborative projects that pair conservators with senior curators, museum administrators, or other allied professionals as a mentoring team for small institutions, providing similar rewards.
Finally, it may be time now or in the near future for a broad review of the Conservation Assessment Program that reconvenes the advisory group instrumental in its design, the program's administrators and sponsors, and representative conservators who provide assessments. Goals for this review might include developing a mechanism that provides regular feedback for assessors, further clarifying program expectations, or identifying assessors who are working below current standards for the purpose of providing them with needed assistance. It may also be useful to institute a cycle of periodic review.
As our experiences continue to shape and define our current practices, an open dialogue among field practitioners is necessary to support the evolution of consensus regarding ethical and practical standards. The current development of revisions to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice provides an excellent opportunity to consider these questions. Conservators should take the opportunity, the initiative, and the responsibility for determining the professional standards and ethical principles that shape this field of endeavor. This is what the agencies that sponsor and support the assessment programs and similar initiatives expect, and it is what the institutions who seek the guidance, critical analysis, and recommendations of conservators deserve.
The author would like to acknowledge the help of his many colleagues and friends who offered their insights and opinions in support of this paper.