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July 2020, Vol. 45, No. 4

Conservation: Reactive & Proactive

By Suzanne Davis, Vice President and Annual Meeting
Program Chair

This is supposed to be a newsy article about the annual meeting, and it will be! But I’m choosing to write something a little more personal, because I don’t feel well-equipped to write anything about our annual conference unless I’m also able to acknowledge how hard it is—even for me, the annual meeting program chair—to actually pay attention to the meeting right now. Our 2020 Annual Meeting theme, Conservation: Reactive and Proactive, was chosen last summer and referenced big, emerging issues in our discipline. Little did we know it would come to seem prescient and almost ridiculously appropriate as we reacted to global and national crises this spring. In this moment, as we continue to react to what is happening in the world around us, we can also see opportunities for proactive work, both with our annual meeting and, more broadly, for the scope and character of our work.

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Board Statement

The brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement officers in late May, combined with the crippling and disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, have again highlighted the racial inequities firmly entrenched in our everyday lives and the abuse that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities endure. As AIC Board members, we stand with Black Lives Matter and our BIPOC colleagues. We are committed to upholding our core values of equity and inclusion. But as an all-white Board representing a majority white organization, we have struggled to act effectively and communicate sensitively, even when reaffirming our commitment to equity and inclusion as expressed in our June 1st message to members. The Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC) has helped us learn how we can convey our support and intentions specifically and with more empathy. We are striving to acknowledge and take corporate and personal responsibility for the systemic racism that underlies our profession and too many of the institutions we serve. Our silence on this issue as an organization contributes to the deep and enduring roots of discrimination suffered by our BIPOC members.

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Peggy Ellis

From the Board Director

COVID-19 and Opportunities for Outreach

The current COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on our critical role in cultural heritage preservation. In an effort to keep audiences engaged at a time of prolonged closure and staff absences, conservators have been called upon to apply two specific skills:

  • We are actively implementing the principles of preventive conservation in order to maintain the well-being of collections
  • We are working with educators and curators to narrate virtual and in-depth stories about works that have special meaning and significance to an excluded public eager for personal connection

Closer to home, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reckoning not only with what objects the American people find to be of most interest, but, more critically, what they hold to be most dear. While sheltering in place, the familiar—a handmade quilt or family photograph—becomes precious and thereby deserving of preservation.

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