¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) promotes the advancement of expert knowledge of materials and technologies to conserve and preserve global cultural heritage. Its investments in research, education, and knowledge-sharing programs help position the field to address its current and future needs.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Despite its broad experience and reach, FAIC has found it difficult to identify the investments needed to support the use of information technology in the discipline. Conservation’s digital landscape – the digital information, technologies, support infrastructures and behaviors that conservation professionals rely on to conduct their work – is complicated, the field’s capacity to harness the potential of this environment is poorly understood.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In 2014, FAIC began an effort to address this problem. With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Getty Foundation and Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the organization conducted a yearlong series of activities (research, a community survey, discussion forums, interviews, and an analysis of online resources) to map the digital landscape as it exists today, and to identify strategic investments in the environment that will serve the community and help it flourish as a profession.
- ¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 4
- How those in the profession create, use, and manage digital resources for their work
- The problems they encounter in these activities
- Their perspectives on why these problems exist
- Their ideas on how these problems might be overcome
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 1 This community input was used to identify the high-level issues that account for the current state of conservation’s digital landscape, and to outline the challenges that must be overcome to make this landscape more serviceable for the profession. Key issues emerged in six distinct areas:
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The field lacks coordinated leadership to envision, propose, track, and support digital initiatives across the profession. Without this leadership, the digital landscape of the profession will continue to develop in a scatter-shot fashion, and the inability to identify and make sense of the abundance of online resources will continue to plague the field.
The visibility of the profession
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 4 Conservation professionals have a low profile in cultural heritage institutions and with the public. Senior administrators in cultural institutions often do not recognize the value that conservation brings to their institutional mission, and fail to include conservators in leadership teams where they could bring that value to the fore.
The state of the field’s digital content
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 3 Conservation’s knowledge base is steeped in an “information amalgam” of complicated, cumulative, and unstructured data that is hard to access in a digital environment. The field lacks the information infrastructures (e.g., standards, workflows, systems, repositories, etc.) necessary to adequately use, share, and preserve its information online.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Cultural institutions often underestimate or minimize the information and technology needs of conservators, failing to incorporate conservation departments into institution-wide strategies for IT. The field is also adversely affected by recent changes in funder strategies that have reduced support in the digital sphere. New models of resource building that could fund and sustain digital efforts are absent from the profession.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 4 The conservation community’s policies and practices are outdated and do not address digital issues that now are routine across the conservation profession. Policies about transparency, collaboration, and sharing of digital resources – which are necessary for effective use of the online environment – are too-frequently viewed with apprehension by the community.
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Conservation professionals create large numbers of digital resources, but lack the skills needed to effectively use, manipulate, and engage with these resources in the digital realm. Digital competencies for the profession have not been established, and current methods of professional training and professional development are inadequate for initial digital skills acquisition and continuing education in this arena.
The report addresses the challenges in each of these areas in more detail, and offers short-, mid-, and long-term recommendations to help address them. The recommendations suggest a way forward that will lead to greater efficiencies, more reliable knowledge bases, and increased cooperation and collaboration within the profession and with its allied communities. Implementing these recommendations will require effort at all levels of the profession, but will result in a more functional, robust, and thriving digital landscape for the field.