ECPN Webinar on Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research featuring Debra Hess Norris on July 26th: Call for Questions

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is pleased to announce the creation of a new webinar series. These webinars will be held periodically and will feature guest presenters who will speak about topics of interest to emerging conservators. The topics of these webinars are being developed based on feedback generated from a survey of ECPN members in February 2012.

Our first webinar will be held on Thursday, July 26, from 1-2pm EST. Please join us and our featured presenter, Debra Hess Norris, who will be speaking about Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research. In addition to Norris’ remarks, tailored to recent graduates on subjects including navigating the field post-graduation, funding opportunities for independent scholars, and tips for self-advocacy, the webinar will include a moderated discussion and Q&A session. Participants will also have the opportunity to ask questions before and after the webinar on the AIC blog.

Please submit your questions as comments to this post, or email them to ECPN Vice-Chair, Eliza Spaulding at: elizaspaulding[at]gmail[dot]com. Questions will be accepted until Thursday, July 26th at 12pm EST. During the webinar, your questions will be anonymously posed. There also will be the opportunity to anonymously ask questions during the webinar using a chat box. Depending on the volume of questions, all of them may not be able to be posed during the webinar, but we hope to follow up on any unanswered questions following the webinar on the blog.

Attendance is free and open to all AIC members. Registration is required and will be open until July 26th at 12pm EST. To register for the webinar, please visit:

About the Speaker

Debra Hess Norris is Chair of the Art Conservation Department and Professor of Photograph Conservation at the University of Delaware. Since 1985, Norris has authored more than 30 articles and book chapters on care and treatment of photographic materials, emergency response, ethics, and conservation education; and taught more than 95 workshops and seminars for conservators and allied professionals. Norris has lectured and consulted on the preservation of photographic collections worldwide, including in Russia, India, Denmark, Mexico, Columbia, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Peru, Australia, and New Zealand. She greatly enjoys fund raising and has secured nearly $13.5 million in external grants for the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware.

Norris was the chair of Heritage Preservation (2003- 2008) and president of the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (1993-97). From 1990-93 she chaired the AIC Ethics and Standards Committee that developed a revised Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. She has served as president of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts Board (CCAHA), US commissioner to UNESCO, and project director of The Andrew W. Mellon Collaborative Workshops in Photograph Conservation. Norris has received the Rutherford John Gettens Merit Award for outstanding service to the American Institute for Conservation (1998), the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Award for excellence in the education and training of conservation professionals (2004), and the American Institute for Conservation University Products Award for distinguished achievement in the conservation of cultural property (2008). Recently, she has spoken at many of the IMLS Connecting to Collections national conferences on topics ranging from the preservation of photographic materials to fund raising for collections care.

21 thoughts on “ECPN Webinar on Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research featuring Debra Hess Norris on July 26th: Call for Questions”

  1. Hi Debbie,
    I feel like my post-graduate identity is in a bit of a crisis. While I have a degree in conservation from a prestigious university, it seems like most proposals require me to be an ‘expert’ on a particular topic (where it is public art, outdoor sculpture, electronic media, antiquities, surveys, or whatever else the grant or client is interested in conserving) which I don’t think I am, but is this a situation where I should play up my experience (it was really hard to get into grad school, there are only a few programs, it is very competitive, the training I received in grad school was top rate, etc.) instead of claiming that I am an expert in collection surveys.

    Of course, I have one clear advantage which is that I am the only objects conservator in private practice in 100 miles, and I believe the only objects conservator in the state of Arizona who is trained in the conservation of contemporary sculpture, so perhaps the scarcity of trained individuals should be what I focus on when I am speaking to clients or applying for funding?

    Thank you so much for this webinar, I am really looking forward to it.

  2. Another question – how do you think job requirements have changed for recent graduates over the past say 20 years? Do you think it is more important now that previously to be more adaptable, be able to raise funding, be able to advocate for yourself, your conservation department, and your institution at the same time? As museums become more like businesses and have CEOs’ and CFOs’ instead of directors does the position of the conservator need to expand to be more involved and collaborate more?


  3. Hi Debra,

    I’m very interested to hear your thoughts about funding for independent scholars… as I’m not aware of much of any that isn’t directly related to particular schools or tied up in things such as FAIC. In a way I’m an independent scholar in that in the last few years I’ve authored book chapters, peer reviewed papers, articles, and hundreds of blog posts, the scholarship of which was not associated with any institution, and the research for which was conducted on my own time [and dime]… so as you can imagine with a desire to continue this work I’m therefore very interested to learn of options for funding!

    I notice that you were the chair of Heritage Preservation, the organization – for those who don’t know – who run the excellent CAP Survey [and CAP2, as well as much more]. Sorry if this might be a bit tangential but one of the things I am often asked by museums around the American SW when they’re prepping their applications is whether I am available to be a CAP surveyor, due to my particular areas of knowledge coinciding with their collections. Unfortunately, I have had to say no because I am not a CAP surveyor, and also I am not able to become one due to the hilarious [if it wasn’t so sad due to the negative effect upon America’s cultural heritage] Catch 22 of essentially needing to be a surveyor in order to become one. Which due to the requirement rules is the reality of the situation pretty much everywhere outside of the I-95 corridor. I realize this is probably a bit beyond the scope of your focus on “funding for independent scholars” but seeing as I often hear this touted as a “good source of funding for emerging private practice conservators” I’d really love to hear your thoughts on how emerging conservators, and those like myself who are a few years beyond emerging, can overcome what seems to be [at least in practice] a closed shop.



    — Question asked in a personal capacity and not related to any of the organizations with which I am affiliated–

  4. Rose and Dan, thank you so much for these great questions for Debbie. We’ve passed these along to her in preparation for the webinar next week.

    And I’d like to encourage both of you and others to post more questions! You can also post something anonymously by asking a friend or colleague to post on your behalf, or you can email me: mollygleeson [at] gmail [dot] com

    Looking forward to the webinar next week!!

  5. Hi Molly, or whoever in ECPN is watching this post,

    I hope someone is going to be making notes and posting them in this thread? As it turns out I won’t be able to watch it, but, I’m sure there’s also many others who’d be interested and won’t be able to be there at the specific time of the event.



  6. Hi Dan,
    ECPN will be sharing a follow-up blogpost about the webinar, and is hoping to continue the Q&A discussion here, as well. Later, we’re even hoping to share Debbie’s ppt. We’ll miss you during the program tomorrow, but hope these resources will be useful!

    Warmly, Eliza

  7. Hi Debbie,
    I contacted the world bank back in 2008 to find out about opportunities with work in conservation or culture o cultural heritage and they turned me down because they claimed they did not have any opportunities on those subjects. Do you know of specific opportunities from the world bank that can apply to conservation?



  8. Recent graduates may need to shadow senior conservators to build their survey expertise and reputation. In doing so, recent graduates should draft sections of these assessment reports so that their involvement in all aspects of the project is clear. Those in graduate school should pursue preventive conservation summer experiences where they must take a leadership role (but still have access to faculty guidance). Find ways to demonstrate expertise by listing relevant coursework and research projects and consider taking short courses or workshops offered by regional centers post-graduation. See if you can volunteer at these workshops in exchange for tuition. Publish in many disparate venues. Speak to allied regional audiences – many conferences will WELCOME your involvement and are not looking for 10 years of expertise – they desire up-to-date relevant information delivered in an organized and engaging way. Presentations and publications are a gauge of expertise as well.

  9. ECPN has begun to gather funding resources for independent conservators. See their blog post below. As I noted in my presentation, it may be important to partner with NGOs or other non-profits to secure grants. They can serve as a sponsor for foundation grants and others. In terms of book authorship, apply for a Kress Fellowship. (You must be a PA to do so, I believe.) Collections-based research can often be funded by grants and residencies offered by cultural institutions. Partner with regional centers if your work may strengthen their field service methodologies or best preservation practices. Think about a PhD and dissertation topics that may focus on an area of research you are most interested in. This study (if in the US) would likely be funded via a stipend and tuition scholarship – depending on the school and nature of your work.

  10. I do not know of specific opportunities but when I spoke there some time ago they were most interested in the preservation of cultural heritage and its impact on and connection to world economies. At that time, they were focused on our field’s work in emergency response and how we may assist with ongoing efforts. The World Bank is a large entity. Find individuals who have connections and use your conservation skills (diplomacy, problem solving, collaboration, interdisciplinary connections, etc.) to secure contracts that may not be totally connected to conservation but focus on cultural exchange. Study the World Bank website and understand which countries are being funded and target accordingly. Check out the Fulbright program too. And there are other global fellowship programs such as Luce.

  11. Do you think the field as a whole considers a PhD to be our terminal degree, especially considering the extremely small percentage of conservation professionals that hold a PhD?

  12. Hi Matt. I think the field considers the Master’s degree to be terminal, but I would recommend pursuing a PhD if you are interested in teaching in a college or university especially. It is interesting to note the higher increase of faculty applicants for conservation faculty positions in recent years – these numbers are growing. Do not be deterred from applying for fellowships that require a PhD – simply clearly note that, in our field, the MS or MA is terminal.

  13. Would it be beneficial for pre-program students to have personal business cards to pass out at conferences, etc.?

  14. Hi Debbie,
    You answered my question during the session, but I was hoping you could elaborate: How do you communicate the complexities of what we do in conservation to an audience with little or no exposure to the field? To give this some context, I recently heard about an article in a women’s magazine that described how to separate stacks of blocked photos with dental floss. If you were in a private practice situation, how would you go about explaining to a client the difference between home-grown tricks like this, and what conservation aims to do?

  15. Yes, I think this is to be recommended. This helps to keep you connected. Our challenge is outside of our field the term “pre-program” may not be well understood. But a card with your job title is a very good idea. And collect cards too AND then connect promptly with those you meet with follow-up questions or notes of thanks. These will be remembered.

  16. We mentioned some of this on the call, but check out AIC’s PR toolkit being developed on the AIC Wiki for some tips about outreach and communication to large and varied audiences:

    Is there anything you’d like to see added to the toolkit or any information you’d like to share? Please let us know! Also, there are summaries of many of the AIC Annual Meeting talks on the AIC blog-you may find some great information here as well. Search under “Annual Meeting” for related posts.

  17. Hi Dan and All,
    Sharing some additional information gathered by Debbie and written up by Sara Gonzales, Heritage Preservation, Coordinator, Conservation Assessment Program. We hope this is helpful!

    The CAP Advisory Committee, which includes past CAP participants and conservation professionals and historic structure assessors, has recommended and we agree that the requirements for assessors participating in the program, should include:

    • evidence of conservation or preservation training;

    • at least five years of experience in the field; and

    • experience conducting general conservation surveys or assessments.

    From the beginning of CAP, our advisory committee has consistently recommended that this on-site experience cannot be replicated in a training course and we have agreed with this. The museums that participate in CAP often face multiple challenges from having few trained staff, to having a broad variety of types of collections. Other challenges include occupying spaces not designed to be a museum and having limited amounts of funding available for preventive conservation. CAP must be assured that assessors have had experiences where they have had to address such conditions and provide accurate advice that takes into account the skills of the museum’s staff.

    There are several ways a conservator can gain the experience in general assessments needed to become a CAP assessor.

    1. Evidence of conducting general conservation surveys or assessments can include having three references from such clients and a writing sample, which demonstrates the conservator’s knowledge of all aspects of preventive conservation, including their ability to provide specific advice on the care of a range of materials, since the museums that participate in CAP often hold diverse collections.

    2. If a conservator is not able to provide a writing sample, we recommend that they a)review the CAP Assessor Handbook ( to familiarize themselves with what an assessment should includeand b) contact an experienced CAP assessor and accompany him/her on a site visit or two to learn about the process.

    3. Some conservators gain experience conducting an assessment and writing a report conducting a CAP-like assessment as fee for service. The funds can come from the general operating budget of the museum, a grant from local or state government, foundation, or business. Some do a pro-bono assessment.

    The CAP Advisory Committee has discussed the possibility of Heritage Preservation considering coordinating a more formalized mentoring program, which would primarily benefit conservators in private practice. Of course it would rely on the volunteer participation of experienced CAP assessors and require additional administrative funds for Heritage Preservation.

    Since individual circumstances may vary, Sara recommends that conservators who are concerned about their qualifications speak with her. Her contact information is 202-233-0831 or

    Finally, if a conservator has less than five years of experience, but wants to get a head start on doing some general assessments or shadowing a CAP assessor while gaining the five years, they can contact Sara. She will try to match them up with a CAP assessment that is happening near them this year, to see if both the assessor and the museum staff would approve of another person attending and observing the assessment.

  18. Coffee – I love strong coffee! And I am passionate about conservation, global work, teaching and advocacy – so that makes it easy.

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