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Sharing Teaching Online through the AIC Community

As a result of the current pandemic, all museum studies and collections care courses being taught at undergraduate and graduate levels were transposed into virtual remote teaching and learning this spring. For many of us who were teaching, this was our first time tasked with the challenge of learning how to use a variety of remote teaching platforms and in learning how to quickly master these platforms effectively. In my case, I was given one week, albeit conveniently and intentionally planned during spring break, to take as many tutorials as possible as I progressed to ZOOM speed. Most importantly, as many of our students scattered to return to safe harbors, we also had to learn to teach asynchronously. Many of us went from comfortable interpersonal classroom teaching environments to more technological or arguably somewhat more mechanized environments. We also had to recognize that some students were struggling with poor technological situations, insufficient internet connections, dismay, confusion, and uncertainty as they physically moved out of their college living situations, some negotiating physical travel despite travel restrictions.

These uncertainties and new challenges presented an opportunity to converse with other adjunct instructors and/or professors of museum studies, conservation and collections care programs about how they were coping with these quickly changing circumstances. What began as a personal inquiry on the AIC Member Community forum was met with thoughtful and detailed conversations and reports from conservators teaching throughout the United States and beyond; I was heartened by the honesty and comradery received from many colleagues. Although only about two dozen initially responded, a discussion forum for those challenged by teaching object-based collections care in a remote environment was clearly necessary and resulted in a new AIC online forum: Teaching Museum Studies Collection Care Online.

Find the online teaching group at www.culturalheritage.org/communities.

Because most conservators do not possess teaching certificates or advanced education degrees, we need this open discussion tool so we can pool our resources and discuss effective strategies for conveying our specialist content. We know “what” we need to teach and “why” we need to teach it but not necessarily “how” best to teach it. The “how” comes from cumulative years of experience and this new online community can now collectively share their knowledge, practical skills, and wisdom.

The forum has already facilitated discussion of theoretical and practical topics. Some conservators already have accumulated experience with both synchronous and asynchronous remote or hybrid teaching, and their comments have helped those of us just entering this arena to cope more effectively. At this point we are not clear what the next few semesters will look like and using this forum will allow us to share resources and prepare ourselves for a different academic landscape. For example, Holly Witchey (Director of Education & Outreach, ICA Art Conservation, teaching at Johns Hopkins) shared information about a blog that emphasizes the importance of knowing where the students are coming from psychologically, especially during our current unstable climate; student mental health and anxiety may be a factor that some instructors previously overlooked and may require different teaching considerations during the next academic year. Many other AIC members have generously contributed practical, useful, and seasoned ideas for the group to ponder and dissect as well. Also, I have become a liaison between our group and another international community which is discussing similar topics; AcCESS (Academic Conservation Education Sharing Site) is founded and managed by Maartje Stols-Wilcox in the Netherlands and is set up as an international resource depository for teaching expertise. You can read more about this group in the recent IIC Newsletter June/July 2020.

Possible long-term goals and objectives for this AIC community could be to develop best practices for virtual pedagogies applicable to museum studies/collections care that will be useful for teaching non-conservators. While respecting the intellectual property of those currently sharing their experiences in this online forum, developing effective tools for teaching non-conservators may be a new direction for our profession to pursue.

The new community forum continues to grow; please join us in our on-line discussions!

Ingrid Neuman, Senior Conservator, RISD Museum, Providence, Rhode Island, Adjunct Instructor, Museum Studies, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, ineuman@risd.edu

ISO Working Group: New Members Call

The ISO TC42 Working Group is looking for new members to expand their scope and help develop standards for cultural heritage that address conservators’ and collection care professionals’ needs and are directly applicable. Their goals include updates to existing standards and new standards reflecting modern imaging materials. You may join them as a guest observer at their November meeting in Ottawa, Canada. For more information, please see: https://www.imaging.org/Site/PDFS/Standards/ISO-TC42-WG5-Brochure_20200422.pdf.


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