Scenarios and the Futures of Conservation

Pauline Frederick – Potiphar’s wife from the Bain Collection, Library of Congress, call number LC-B2-2633-9.

I know there’s days when I find myself wishing for a Wayback Machine so that I could travel back into the past, and then there are days when I’m thinking about what might happen five or ten years from now. Do you ever think about how different our jobs will be 20 years from now?

Conservator of frames and furniture at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, MaryJo Lelyveld applied forecasting and the technique of  scenario planning to consider what the field of conservation might look like in 2030 for the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) National Meeting in September 2011. In the body of the paper she suggests that this longer range forecasting is beneficial in thinking through what skills conservators will need to develop and how organizations will need to adapt as a result. In an appendix, she suggests three possible scenarios factoring in the impact of the cost of caring for collections in a time of slow economic growth, technology, and a rise in volunteerism in the face of an aging population and an under employed younger generation, among other things.

For more commentary on Leyveld’s paper, Beyond Swabs and Solvent Gels: Using scenarios to generate, evaluate and navigate conservation futures, see the American Association of Museum’s Center for the Future of Museum’s blog.