Association News

Next column: Annual Meeting News >> 

AIC COVID-19 Member Survey


More than twelve weeks ago, like many members, the impacts of COVID-19 on my workplace and my day-to-day life arrived in rapid succession and with little notice. My university closed campus in mid-March and my city issued stay-at-home orders. Like everyone else, I was disoriented and adrift with my concerns for the safety of my community, my team at work, and loved ones at home. I led BPG’s weekly “Tea with BPG” series in April and May to maintain contact with and gain strength from my conservation community. The collaborative spirit for knowledge-sharing among conservation professionals led BPG to create our “Conservation & Working From Home” collaborative website of crowd-sourced COVID-19 resources. Both made it abundantly clear that AIC needed pathways to systematically listen to and gather member concerns in order to gain a better understanding of the current personal and professional topics facing members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pulse 1 Survey 
The first “pulse” survey closed on July 15. We will share more pulse surveys at regular intervals through the fall.

The survey, conducted over a period of two weeks and closed on May 15th, was supported by collaboration among the AIC Board, BPG, and survey expertise from AIC staff. Survey structure and questions were influenced by other member surveys distributed by our peers at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC). Initial results of the survey were presented at the AIC Business Meeting by AIC President Margaret Holben Ellis on May 22nd.

The survey sought to get a snapshot of how all AIC members are doing during this time of uncertainty. Please keep in mind that this is a picture of only two weeks in the lives of our members in early May. The survey results identified areas of shared concerns across the breadth of our membership and will help our AIC leadership advocate and ally with other professional organizations for supportive resources. A smaller subset of the survey will be repeated at intervals three more times over the next six months to take the pulse of the AIC membership as the pandemic crisis evolves and (we hope) abates. Our aim is to look at the overall ebb and flow of concerns among membership as a whole, not the specific responses of any one respondent. All data points will be anonymized.

The survey needed to capture confidence in personal and professional topics, so was lengthy. We all recognize that it can be difficult to overcome survey fatigue, so some topics had to be cut or condensed. As an example, though the specifics of how workplaces closed or addressed continuity plans would have been informative for the field, asking targeted questions would have been cumbersome and out of scope for the survey. The true focus honed on gauging how people are doing and their concerns.


Out of 3,228 AIC members, 908 responses were collected; this represents an excellent response rate of approximately 28%, due no doubt to the support of Specialty Group (SG) and Network leaders who sent out frequent reminders to their constituencies. This high response rate gives the survey important statistical reliability and a confidence level of 95%, meaning that these responses probably match those of the broader membership within a margin of error of less than 3%. Thank you to those who responded for sharing their sentiments. We hope that your AIC friends and colleagues can be a source of support.

Respondents were distributed across all of the SG and Networks. Some groups like OSG, TSG, and WAG had significant participation rates of almost 35%. The distribution of years of experience demonstrates that this survey drew responses from a wide range of AIC members. The demographic represents our core cohort of working professionals and includes a healthy number of senior members with more than 40 years of experience.

The majority (73%) of survey respondents are employed full-time and employed at institutions (59%). A solid response rate of 31% was registered from those in private practice, small businesses, or consultancies.

Not surprising, 85% are concerned about the health and wellbeing of their loved ones and community. A majority 61% of respondents feel like it is difficult to work effectively during this time. People are also understandably very concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their workplace and what those institutions or businesses will look like after this crisis ends.

If we compare two queries (Q46 and Q1) which each look at the impact of the virus on personal and professional concerns, 90% of members are worried to some degree about their professional lives. There is an 18% jump up in the “extremely” and “very worried” responses when asked about their professional lives. This points to a greater sense of professional insecurity and uncertainty, most likely rooted in a lack of agency and control over this unprecedented situation. Factors such as one’s employees, employer, career track, and the future of the cultural sector in general are largely out of an individual’s hands.

This information can help AIC find ways to support members through advocacy, alliances with other organizations, and public awareness campaigns. As NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede underscored in his May 21st keynote speech, conservation professionals are key stakeholders in preserving our nation’s cultural heritage.

During the survey period 10.4% of respondents—72 of our colleagues—were laid off, furloughed, or their contracts not renewed. Another 22 people were waiting for an announcement. We know that since this survey closed in mid-May that some tough staffing decisions have been made and more members may be impacted. We must recognize here that each number in that cohort represents a person and not just one percentage point. 

For many members, the impact of closures and cancelled exhibits and loans will extend into spring 2021 and beyond. A significant 64% of respondents will have their professional travel postponed or prohibited. Just under half, at 44%, are experiencing hiring freezes. This crisis has had an immediate impact on emerging professionals with 22% reporting that internships and fellowships have been withdrawn. Again, the number of respondents speaks louder than percentages: 177 emerging professionals in conservation and allied education, curatorial, and other departments within these institutions have had their internships cancelled or postponed.

Next Steps

“Pulse” surveys will be repeated three more times throughout the summer and into the fall – they’ll be shorter and repeat some of the same questions. This will allow us to track the evolution of the crisis and its impact on members. We hope to see even more trends that might help AIC to identify supportive resources and expand AIC’s network of support among allied organizations. Analysis of the responses will be done by the survey team after each pulse. We will continue to share these summaries of the survey throughout the process but will retain our commitment to the anonymity of demographic and identifying information. A final analysis and summary product will be submitted to the AIC Board in time for the Internal Advisory Group meeting in the late fall.

The AIC Board remains committed to listening to members and their concerns. Please assist them in this effort by participating in future pulse surveys to make the results truly meaningful. Thank you!

—Sarah Reidell, BPG Chair 2019-2020,

Updates: Committees, Working Groups, and Task Forces

Equity & Inclusion Committee Update (E&I)

At this year’s AIC Member Business Meeting, the Equity & Inclusion Committee (EIC) provided an update on some of the projects we have been working on this year, summarized here.

Strategic Plan
The EIC is pleased to present the EIC Strategic Plan for 2020-2025. We have developed a strategic plan to guide the work of the committee that focuses on actionable areas that we hope to achieve over the next five years. The goals of this plan are to lay out partnerships within AIC, and then objectively examine the structural and systemic barriers to their implementation. The Strategic Plan also serves to outline broad areas of need, which will help to define and prioritize action items for the committee. Our efforts will focus on changing AIC culture and building a strong foundation that will ensure that future diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts are successful and sustainable. 

The goals of the strategic plan fall into four main areas:

  • Goal I: Foster an inclusive and welcoming organizational culture
  • Goal II: Increase DEIA training and resources for AIC members
  • Goal III: Improve sustainability of DEIA funding sources
  • Goal IV: Integrate DEIA into all AIC programs

Read the full plan on the committee’s Equity & Inclusion Resources webpage. We plan to hold a virtual open house later in the summer during the annual meeting where we can discuss the specifics of the plan.

DEIA on the AIC Wiki
The committee launched its wiki page dedicated to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility (DEIA). We hope this part of the AIC Wiki will become an important resource for the conservation community. We currently have sections on foundational concepts around DEIA, compensation and hiring, accessibility, and land acknowledgements. We plan to use the wiki to post more information on our current projects and add more resources and information. If you have ideas for more topics or would like to contribute, please reach out to us!

Accessibility Guidelines for the 2020 AIC Virtual Meeting
The committee prepared guidelines for speakers and moderators for this year’s virtual meeting. We created accessibility guidelines for virtual events that are intended to make presentations and conference sessions more accessible to conference participants, with a focus towards those with disabilities. These guidelines also make the presentations and sessions more inclusive of all members, including participants with different learning styles and non-native English speakers. The guidelines are on our newly-launched AIC Wiki page.

Land Acknowledgment Guidelines for the 2020 AIC Virtual Meeting
In preparation for this year’s annual meeting, we created guidelines on writing land acknowledgments for speakers and moderators. A land acknowledgement is a statement meant to respectfully recognize the original Indigenous people who inhabited and cared for a specific area before colonization or displacement. This year’s online format gives us the opportunity to join in recognizing the many different tribal lands which we are calling from. The committee encourages speakers to consider giving a personal land acknowledgement at the beginning of a session or before their presentation. We are heartened to see this happening during the meeting.

Why include a land acknowledgement in your presentation? As with any cultural preservation effort, we cannot forget the importance of people in our mission to preserve memory and heritage. Providing this statement is one gesture that demonstrates our recognition of this history and respect for the community where we are holding our activities. Equally important, it actively recognizes the history of colonialism and displacement that has benefitted many of the cultural institutions in which conservators work. You can find more information about writing your own land acknowledgments on our wiki page.

—Anisha Gupta,

Education and Training Committee (ETC)

The ETC welcomed new committee member Steven Stuckey in May, and thank outgoing members Nina Owczarek, Rebecca Rushfield, and Ellen Pearlstein for their service! Outgoing Chair Renee Stein guided the committee in developing guidelines for pre-program internships, solidifying the committee structure, and partnering with the Membership Designation Working Group (MDWG). ETC members recently reviewed the May round of FAIC professional development scholarship applications. Incoming Chair Sue Donovan plans to lead the committee through another successful year.

Emergency Committee (EC)

The Emergency Committee elected Samantha Snell as co-chair, to join Holly Herro. The EC thanks Howard Wellman for his leadership and is pleased he will continue to serve as Chair Emeritus.

Health & Safety Committee

Health & Safety Committee Becomes a Network

The AIC Health & Safety Committee has become a network to better serve the needs of its members.

Established in 1983 as the fifth AIC Committee after Bylaws, Certification, Ethics and Standards, and Membership, its mission is to increase knowledge of safety hazards, control measures, and general health issues related to the conservation profession. These goals are accomplished through a variety of media, including articles and safety guides in the AIC News and the Health & Safety section of the AIC Wiki.

Why the Change?
Changing from a committee to a network makes sense in terms of organizational structure: committees do work related to AIC’s operations while networks serve as interest groups for the benefit of the AIC member community. Members of the former committee will become the Network’s leadership in the same positions as they previously held. AIC members and our cultural heritage partners are welcome to join the network, which includes benefits such as a dedicated topic forum/listserv (coming soon)! A network structure also introduces the potential for having more of the AIC membership work with us on different projects and articles. Expect to hear from our officers about opportunities for project assistance and potential articles.

The New Network
Because everyone has a stake in health and safety, a health and safety network will better serve members by allowing everyone to join. The new network will not charge a membership fee; AIC members will be able to add the Health and Safety Network to their membership array for free. We are hopeful, too, that a larger membership base will result in more exchange of health and safety knowledge and will result in safer workplaces for all.

The Health and Safety Network Leadership:

  • Tara Kennedy, Chair
  • Sue Costello, Vice Chair
  • Paulette Reading, Secretary
  • Katherine Ridgway, Publications Officer
  • Kate McEnroe, Working Groups and Projects Coordinator; Publications Editor
  • Laura Mina, Conservation Professional Alliances Coordinator; Publications Editor
  • Christina Bisulca, Communications Officer
  • Kim Harmon, Allied Professional
  • Jo Anne Martinez Kilgore, Respirator Fit Test Coordinator
  • Marie Desrochers, H&S Booth Coordinator
  • Adrienne Gendron, Student Member, Web and Wiki Co-Coordinator
  • Allison Kelley, Student Member, Web and Wiki Co-Coordinator

The Imaging Working Group (IWG)

The Imaging Working Group (IWG) Group was established this spring in recognition that imaging is important to the ethical and evolving practice of conservation and to develop a professional basis for supporting conservators with information about the growing number of imaging, technologies, applications and practices. The group aims to support the conservation community in imaging-related topics and endeavors by increasing communication and encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration; to identify and address (through sustainable collaboration) the challenges that conservators encounter related to imaging resources, practices and objectives; and to encourage a consistently high level of conservation imaging by providing resources, solutions, and community through testing, training and standardization. The IWG consists of E. Keats Webb, JJ Chen, Anna Serotta, Dawn Kriss, and Dale Kronkright, with staff liaison Bonnie Naugle and board liaison Sarah Melching.

Collaborative Workshops in Photograph Conservation Advisory Committee (CWPC)

The CWPC Advisory Committee will present a talk titled “Past, Present, and Future of the Collaborative Workshops in Photograph Conservation” on July 15th during the Photographic Materials virtual meeting session. The Committee is interested in developing a virtual learning program on “Data Analysis and Visualization for Conservators,” and sent a survey to the AIC membership to solicit feedback and interest. The Committee is excited to report more than 1,000 registrations for courses in the Photographic Chemistry for Preservation online series since its debut.

Next column: Annual Meeting News >>