ECPN Webinar with Debra Hess Norris on Self-Advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research

On July 26th, ECPN held its first webinar, which featured Debra Hess Norris, Chair of the Art Conservation Department and Professor of Photograph Conservation at the University of Delaware. In a presentation and discussion on Self-advocacy and Fundraising for Personal Research, Norris offered a wealth of advice valuable to both recent graduates and professionals new to the field, as well as experienced conservators.

Norris continually stressed the importance of networking, of keeping in touch with mentors and peers, and getting involved in AIC and other conservation groups. Interestingly, though, she also suggested looking for opportunities outside of conservation. Attending meetings of groups in related fields or speaking at their conferences, writing for publications outside of the conservation literature, and connecting with local universities for lectures or adjunct teaching positions are ways to not only gain experience and expand one’s network, but also to advocate for conservation and educate those outside of the field about the work of conservators. The interdisciplinary nature of conservation should be utilized to increase the visibility of the profession.  She emphasized that we should think globally and explore opportunities offered by the US State Department or World Bank, become US correspondents for IIC or ICOM, apply for the ICCROM fellows program, or find sponsorship for the Fulbright program.

Norris also encouraged the audience to volunteer and get involved in community-based projects. She suggested, for example, serving on committees, becoming CAP assessors, or visiting collections that lack conservators and offering to help with grant proposals.

Norris gave useful tips on the grant application process and highlighted funding sources that conservators do not always take into account. She recommended considering residencies at cultural institutions which conservators seldom apply for, identifying non-profit sponsors or partners, inquiring with undergraduate universities for legacy funding, and competing for Stout or other AIC specialty group funding, particularly if you are volunteering to help at the annual meeting. In response to an audience question, Norris also advised that if you do get a grant, you include it on your resume, as it demonstrates your abilities to successfully acquire funding sources, even if just for yourself.

In addition, she discussed building skills by taking workshops or seminars to strengthen your negotiating proficiency or taking business classes (especially if you intend to pursue a private practice), obtaining certificates in grant-writing or project management, or considering a doctoral degree in an allied field.

Finally, Norris once again encouraged the audience to be advocates for our field, to share our vision and enthusiasm, to communicate the ethics, philosophy, and interdisciplinary nature of conservation, and to always welcome opportunities to speak to the public.


For more information on this webinar, and to view audience questions with Norris’ responses, as well as research funding opportunities, resources, and tips, please visit the following blog posts:


Have any ideas for future webinar topics? Please post them below.